Of planning birthday parties

by Dave Taylor on March 17, 2011

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I don’t know if it’s simply because my kids are so social and enthusiastic, or whether it’s my influence as somewhat of a public figure here in town, constantly involved with activities and heading to parties, but planning our kids birthday parties is becoming quite a challenge. My son is turning 11 on Friday and we’re not only an AP family, we also believe that too much exposure to media / video / video games has a deleterious effect on their behavior and our collective happiness. (yes, I tried to word that carefully!)

And so my son’s initial suggestion for a birthday party was “my three buddies come over after school Friday, we watch a movie like “Transformers” (PG13), have a pizza, they all spend the night, then the next morning we can watch cartoons and play on the Wii for a few hours!”

Yikes. Not so much.

To find a middle ground, his mom and I (we’re divorced, coparenting) expressed our concerns and invited him to come up with a proposed alternative that respected our objections and would still be fun.  Mistake.  Now we have a two-day-long royal celebration of his birth (you think I’m kidding!) that includes his best buddies with us all day Saturday with go-karts and a movie, then a separate party celebration Sunday — after the same 3 boys spend the night — for all the boys in his class.

We’re working on finding a middle ground, but holy cow, does anyone else find that your kids want to have a national holiday for their birthday, with celebrations 24×7 and garlands flung from the parapets? :-)

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Dave Taylor (5 Posts)

Dave is a single dad with three children, a 15yo daughter, 11yo son and 8yo daughter, and blogs about life and parenting both here at API and at his popular Go Fatherhood Blog.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Sacha March 17, 2011 at 11:30 am

I’m all about birthdays so a National Holiday Birthday makes me happy. My boy is turning four in a few weeks and we have a couple days of activities planned out. I just can’t wait. I love having one or two days where we can just focus on him and all of his wonderfulness.

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Mary March 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Same sentiments as Sacha! Birthdays are my kids’ own little moment in time. I love celebrating their births and I think *I’m* the one that wears them out! We also devote a few days for each child’s festivities. I have a son who was born on Leap Day, so you know his “real” birthdays are going to be huge bashes. I think it makes them feel special and it’s a time for me to mega-acknowledge the amazing presence they have in my life. Party on!

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Amy March 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Though I understand your objections to television and share those views myself, I don’t see the harm in having a sleepover with a movie, perhaps cutting out the cartoons and Wii in the morning in exchange for crafts or sports or some other activity. Maybe you’d rather a different movie be chosen, too but I remember having birthday parties like that once or twice and they were fun and low-key (and pretty affordable, too). Why not allow them to have the movie (approved by you) and the sleepover but then choose a different activity for the morning and have them all picked up by 11 am or something?

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Shelly March 18, 2011 at 8:49 am

I have to say that kids’ extravagant and/or too big birthday parties have always been a pet peeve for me. Now that I’m a mom and we’re moving down the road to our son’s first birthday I feel even more sure that we don’t want to start this tradition in our lives.

When kids’ lives are used as status symbols or opportunities for parents to congregate I feel, sadly, that it takes something away from them. For instance, your son’s original birthday idea was BEAUTIFUL. It was HIM. It was his idea of a celebration. I say, go with it! At each age, a child’s birthday requests say something about where they are developmentally. WHAT they do is a representation of WHO they are. This is the whole point of acknowledging each birthday in the first place… a “This is who you were then” sort of thing.

Happy Birthday, Lil’ Guy!

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Dave Taylor March 18, 2011 at 9:01 am

Thanks for the comments. An update, since the celebration begins this afternoon: after occasionally heated negotiations, we’ve agreed that his buddies will have a sleepover tonight, but no movies or video games beforehand. Tomorrow we’re all going to see “Hop” at the movie theater, then we’ll play 60-90 minutes of video games — with all four boys playing simultaneously — followed by a big basketball scrimmage game, lunch at a favorite restaurant, and go-karts. He seems pretty delighted with how it’s turned out, which is great.

The wrinkle with just saying “it’s his day, let’s him do what he wants” is that all of my children are very clearly reactive to both screen time and certain foods, and that saying “just go for it” has negative consequences with their behavior and therefore impacts all of us and decreases the fun we have with the party. A bit of restraint, a bit of management often helps make it more fun in the big picture, even if it sometimes is a drag to say “we’re not having soda with lunch” or “we’re not going to watch an R-rated movie, boys”.

Again, I think life is about balance. The party is for him, of course, but he’s part of a family and surrounded by other people who have to bear the brunt of positive or negative experiences. A party where he has a great time but I am left feeling disrespected and exploited doesn’t sound very fun…

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Stephanie March 18, 2011 at 9:36 am

I know that Birthday parties can be expensive, but I don’t see anything wrong with children wanting to celebrate their birth in a weekend extravaganza! I personally would enjoy something akin to it myself! Being 28, I’d still love to go Go-Karting, Mini-Golfing and then throw a giant party with friends! At 11 I think it’s fun, but say, if your child were younger, I’d probably discourage it – my son is turning 2 this year, and I think an afternoon pot-luck with lots of family and a few 2-year-old and older friends will be the mood setting on his day!

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