Parents Who Spend Big Bucks on Birthday Parties Are Crazy

Super sweet 16Thirteen years sure flew by quick. It didn’t when I was a kid myself, but when I became a mom, I became a firsthand witness to how fast a child can go from a totally dependent but absolutely adorable little blob of chubby cutey fatness to an I-can-do-it-by-myself-but-can-I-have-twenty-dollars-just-in-case bad mama jamma. I’m grappling with the reality that next month, Tween Girl will officially become Teen Girl.

Though I’m resentful of this 13th birthday and all that it represents — she’s going to want more freedom, get a real boyfriend, and eventually leave the house, won’t she?! — I want to give her a really hot party. My Super Sweet 16 kind of ruined it for the basic cake-and-ice-cream shindigs. But I refuse to do two things: put any charges on my recently paid-off credit card and spend anything with a comma in it. I mean, that’s just ridiculous.


There are parents who confuse their financial ability to give their kids these major, enviable blowouts with a real demonstration of their love. A few years ago, Skylar went to a party and the kid’s mom told me she spent $300 on her daughter’s 11th birthday cake. Just the cake. At 11? What in the world about that age warrants a $300 cake? I was astounded. But that’s just the kind of competition I’m up against. The pressure is on for moms and dads to pull out all the glitzy stops for their kids’ parties to keep up with the Joneses (or, in this case, the Petersons).

But I’m railing against the excesses and elaborateness. Creativity, dear friends in my head, will carry me just as far as cash money.

Thank goodness The Girl is not that hard to please. She should be used to my homegrown ideas by now, but you know what? She always has a good time. For her 6th birthday, she and her friends had a princess tea party complete with her grandmother’s special china that she’s not allowed to touch — which was a thrill in and of itself. For her 9th birthday, I enlisted both of her grandmothers to assist me in a spa day where, for a very limited time only, we catered to her and her friends. We massaged their feet, ran to refresh their drinks, and gave them manicures. It was quite a hit. A few years later, one of her classmates had a party at a real spa. It warmed my ol’ surly spirit when Skylar leaned over and whispered to me, “Mommy, my spa party was funner.”

With my track record unsoiled, I’m steady crafting a vision to make the big 1-3 a memorable one. It spans two weekends so far. The first a more refined outing with me and her godmother taking her to a very chic, very grown-up restaurant that doesn’t have chicken fingers on the menu, then to the theater to see Fela! which, by a stroke of good fortune, is having its last show here in D.C. the day before her birthday. She even has the good luck of having the day off from school on her day. It’s Columbus Day and even though we don’t celebrate that (why are we still observing that holiday, anyway?), we’ll spend the day celebrating her.

That next weekend will be party week. To throw a soiree these days, the standards have been kind of amplified. You can’t just tape a few balloons around the back of a couple of chairs, invite some loud classmates over, slide a bowl of chips in front of them, and call it a party. No sirree. There’s got to be a theme, multimedia components, and a certain amount of wow factor to make the kid feel like their birthday was not only fun, but something their friends will be talking about long after the gift cards have been spent.

I’m railing against the excesses and elaborateness. Creativity, dear friends in my head, will carry me just as far as cash money. I refuse to be one of those parents who breaks the bank on one day when, in fact, that day will come around again next year with the same obligatory hullabaloo. I’m just sayin’.

So has Super Sweet 16 spoiled our kids’ reality? How much is too much to spend on a kid’s birthday?

Image via ewan traveler/Flickr

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