Party excesses

Ah, partying. Good times. Nah, not the type we used to talk about. Not the late night, chemical substance enhanced, blistered dance feet stuff. I’m talking about parties thrown for the prepubescent set because a good friend wrote me a delicious rant about obscene birthday parties. (I have permission to post this, in case you’re worried that I’m a willy-nilly email copy-and-paster. Let’s call this large direct quote a guest post so you don’t worry that I’ll similarly rip off your rants. Unless you want me to.)

Here is the rant/inquiry/musing/conversation starter:

>>>When did children’s birthday parties as events become de rigueur? To be clear, I do not have children of any age, size, or variety. I am sitting in my wooden house throwing stones at all the glass I see. Having said that, being a woman tip-toeing her way towards 40, I have a lot of friends with young children. And from what I can tell, it seems commonplace to throw hardcore parties for children under the age of 10.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m all for big family and friends-of-family get-togethers for the 3 and under crowd. Similarly, as kids get older and get what birthdays mean, I’m all for getting their friends together for cake, whether gluten and refined sugar free or from Costco, and games and meltdowns and such. But it seems that among my middle-class friends, Events are becoming commonplace. Like the birthday party at the beginning of Parenthood. (The movie, not the TV show. Although I do like the TV show, the movie is really more Gen X. I mean, I know Martha Plimpton has resurfaced in “Raising Hope”, but she was in Goonies and dated River Phoenix–how much more Gen X can you get??)

Anyway. When did it become reasonable to invite every kid in the class to a birthday party? When did it become normal that a seven year old gets a spa party? Or cheerleader lessons? And when did goodie bag distribution become required? Maybe I’m just having a “when I was little, we didn’t have mountain bikes, we had Schwinn’s with banana seats, and we didn’t have TVs in our room, we had a black and white TV in the living room without a remote control with rabbit ears, and we didn’t have iPods, we had the radio and maybe Walkmans with mix tapes made by recording FROM the radio” moment. Or maybe my friends really aren’t middle class. But it seems like kids these days are being raised with crazy expectations. If you’re having spa party at seven, what happens when you turn ten? Thirteen? Sixteen? Graduate from high school? Is there a parade in your honor? Aren’t these things ridiculously expensive? <<<

Well? What do you think? I haven't been to one of these extravaganzas, nor have I hosted one. We're cupcakes-and-art-project birthday party types. We host burritos-at-the-playground birthday celebrations. We're an invite-one-friend-for-every-candle-on-the-cake family.

What do you do? What is considered standard among your friends, families, and school? What's your line for too much?

[Thanks for the guest post, Dear Friend. For the record, I still have mix tapes I recorded from the radio. I was AWESOME with the record/play/pause button dance that resulted in not-even-close-to-seamless transitions.]