Parents strike back at over-the-top kid parties
A few weeks ago, I told my fellow Mommas about how stressed out I felt about my son's upcoming third birthday and at the cost of most of the party venues that his classmates were using. I also worried about how it would look to the other kids and parents to have a low frills, low budget celebration.
As it turns out, I wasn't alone. Some parents in the St. Paul, Minn., area got alarmed about how out of control kids' parties were becoming and resolved to do something about it. The result is a group called Birthdays Without Pressure. It has no by-laws, officers or dues, just a Web site with horror stories of parties run amok. See the tales of limo rides, rented llamas, even a filthy rich New York father who booked Aerosmith and had $10,000 goody bags. Not surprisingly, several stories come from Florida:
* A $250,000 birthday party for a 7-year old girl, with limos, an adult party with alcohol, the grand ballroom for the kids, helicopter rides, horses, and wild animals.
* Another Florida family rented a cougar, which mauled a 4-year-old.
Of course, these don't even compare with the bashes thrown by celebs. According to the Web site OMG!, soirees for Hollywood tots run about $25,000. The one for little Suri Cruise totaled $100,000 and produced a $45,000 catering bill and a $5,000 cake. Wonder how many poor people that could have helped?
What's even sadder are the stories on the Birthdays Without Pressure Web site about the kids who are turned into spoiled brats by such lavish parties: The 6 year old who declared a nice gift he had requested "a piece of junk"; the boy who wouldn't accept a party invitation until he found out the contents of the goody bags; a girl who proclaimed her goody bag "a rip-off." One 9-year-old girl told her mother, who worked hard to organize a home party, that it "just wasn't magic enough."
Why are parties like this? The site offers a host of reasons. Pressure to make everything for our kids enriching and over the top, competition among parents, a me-first culture, smaller families so more money can be spent on parties.
I don't know about you, but I don't want my son to be like those kids in the horror stories. In fact, if I ever hear of him doing or saying anything like that it will be all I can to do to resist the urge to rethink my decision to ban spanking.
The Web site has some good ideas on how to rein in parties. I may start by telling parents not to bring gifts. My son has plenty of toys and will no doubt get more from doting grandparents, aunts and uncles. I like the suggestion of asking everyone to bring a new or gently used book and donating them to the local library or a homeless shelter. I'm also considering skipping the goody bags. That would eliminate a major headache in one fell swoop.
This way, maybe my son and his friends will learn that the world doesn't revolve around them and that other less fortunate people are human beings with needs that matter, and it's more important to make the world a better place. I hope so. Because this generation will be running the world when you and I are old and vulnerable. Let's start teaching them to be governed by compassion rather than greed.
-- Lisa Buie, Times Mom