I’ve lived in good ol’ suburbia since I graduated from college, something like a million years ago. And after so many years of being an official suburbanite, I’m definitely thankful I didn’t grow up here, although I suppose I have lived here long enough that I’ve grown to at least kinda, sorta, semi fit in. That said, however, I think there’s always going to be different things about the suburban way of life that just continue to blow my mind – one of those being the all-out production of kids’ birthdays.
My oldest recently just turned seven and last weekend we had his friend party. He did not get a friend party until he was five, but I’m starting to regret not delaying it until possibly 16. Now in my suburban mind, we kept things fairly simple for his party. He wanted a sports theme, so we rented out a place for two hours, and the kids played a few different games. I brought in pizza, cake, some drinks and called it a day. Oh, and goody bags. Because why wouldn’t kids deserve getting a small bag of junk at every party they attend. [Seriously, has this always been a thing? Who started this tradition? Am I the only one who thinks it’s ridiculous?] Anyway, on the flip side, my small-town mind is still utterly in shock over just how much this “low-key” party cost. I refuse to even acknowledge the total because I swear I could have enjoyed a nice solo three-day trip to Mexico for less. Kidding. Kind of.
Now while the dollar amount is just insane to me, what really gets me is that these kids, mine included, EXPECT this kind of thing. Like every year. How is dropping a few hundred dollars (we’ve been to some that have definitely cost way more) on a little kid’s random birthday the norm? Whatever happened to picking three of your closest friends, having mom bake a Betty Crocker cake and going to celebrate at the nearby park for a few hours? Obviously these suburban kids are not growing up on the same planet that I did. I remember having that park birthday party like ONE time. Any other year I think I might have invited someone over for dinner. And maybe my memory might be slightly off, but either way my dad would have dropped dead before dropping a few Benjamin’s on some insignificant birthday party. I tried explaining to Jaycob just how lucky he was to get such a nice party with his friends and mentioned that I merely went to the park when I was little. I might as well have told him I grew up in a cardboard box for the appalled look he gave me. Like he just couldn’t believe that’s ALL I did.
Things like this just really make question, once again, if I’m doing the right thing by raising my kids in the suburbs. I mean sure, we all want to “give our kids more than we had” but I firmly believe there’s still a fine line between giving them more and not creating spoiled brats. But when yearly elaborate parties are the norm, I find it difficult to tell my kids, “no sorry, you can’t have the party that you want because it’s just INSANE.” So of course, I saddle right up on that suburban bandwagon and do my best to provide an extremely watered-down “extravagant” party. Because all kids should be able to celebrate their special day with their friends. It’s important, and I’ll continue to do my best to make sure my kids get that. I just won’t ever figure out why someone should be forced to sell a kidney in order to pay for it.
Now, here’s where I’m going to go and contradict everything I just said (well at least in terms of the ridiculous cost) because if this party taught me anything at all, it’s that under no circumstances do I want to attempt to save money and host a kids’ (7-year-old boys, to be specific) party at my house. At first I was worried and felt bad for Jaycob because so many of the kids he invited were already busy that day, but ultimately he still had eight friends show up. And honestly even though I wasn’t really even in charge (a couple of teenagers were leading the kids in the games), I think if any more had come I might have just walked out. The energy, the craziness, the noise and just pure chaos with this group of kids was intense. And it’s not even that anyone was misbehaving. They were simply being seven-year-old kids. There was jumping and acrobatics and endless amounts of yelling and nonstop running. These kids were dripping wet in sweat. It certainly looked like everyone had a great time, which of course was fantastic. But truly all I kept thinking was, “oh my God, what if this was going on at my house?! Would I even have a house left?”
So at the end of the day, I ask myself why would I go against my frugal farm upbringing and piss away too much money for a most likely unmemorable birthday? Why would I simply perpetuate what I consider to be a legit problem with children automatically expecting to be handed the world? It’s simple: because I don’t want that kind of crazy up in my house. Survival, people. If it means my kids are happy and I get to keep my house intact; it’s worth it. Because parenting ain’t nothing but a balancing act mixed in with a shit ton of crazy.