A NEW BLOG!
Thanks for stopping by. Mummy Mayhem is no longer updated. I now have a new, albeit smaller blog over at www.jodieansted.blogspot.com.au.
Drop by anytime. :)
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Birthday Parties?
"What do you mean?" I asked incredulously. "It's a birthday party of course!"
He said, "Noooo. I mean what kind of birthday party is it?"
"Oh," I replied, realising what he was, in fact, asking, "You mean...what's the theme of the party, right?"
"Yes!" he answered with just a hint of frustration in his voice. I could almost hear him thinking, Geez, Mum...get with the programme already!
The old fashioned birthday party seems to be something of a rarity. Parties these days almost always have a theme or include an entertainer or are held at a centre that specialises in some form of entertainment for kids. Almost gone are the days of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, pass-the-parcel (actually, that continues to be a bit of a party favourite, although in my day there was only ONE winner - not everybody got a turn of unwrapping and receiving a gift) and the chocolate game. (Do you remember the chocolate game? I can't recall exactly how it went, but it had something to do with dressing up in silly clothes and trying to cut in to a large Dairy Milk chocolate bar with a knife and fork, and it was all done in a hurry.)
When friends of ours used to hold parties for their preschooler children, they would do the backyard thing, but would completely go out of their way to entertain the kids pretty much every second of the party. Dancing competitions, pass the parcel, treasure hunts...you name it, and all I could think at the time was, Surely these kids just want to play?
Today's party was fairly relaxed. In fact the only thing that set it apart from parties of yesteryear was the obligatory jumping castle in the backyard. (And let's face it, those things are worth their weight in GOLD.) But there was no petting zoo, hired entertainer, fancy-schmancy birthday cake...just essentially a handful of kids having some play time together.
I wondered, is it that kids have a higher expectation for their birthday parties and the parties they attend these days, or is it the parents that have set the precedence for more elaborate affairs? What would my 9yr old son think if I said, "Hey, how about next year for your birthday we just invite some kids to the local park and kick a soccer ball around and eat cake?" Would he go for it? Or would he think, What? My parents don't want to give me a real birthday party?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying, for example, colour-themed parties - something I don't really remember being a big deal when I was a kid - are terrible at all (actually, I rather like a colour-theme myself). Nor am I going to baulk at taking any of my sons to an indoor rock-climbing for a party (really...who actually wants 15 boys running around their backyard?). And Hubby and I have often taken the easy route ourselves when it comes to birthday celebrations.
When the 9yr old and 7yr old celebrated their 5th and 3rd birthdays, I organised a joint party at a fairly local indoor play centre (mostly attended by family friends and their kids). I did this because: a) I had a fairly newborn baby; and b) the thought of kids running around screaming in our backyard, and trying to get the house in order in preparation for the party scared the living bejeebies out of me. In my mind, it was money well spent. The kids had a great time. They were entertained by a very cool Michael Buble lookalike magician (therefore, the mums in attendance were also entertained), I got to sit and drink coffee with the adults and show off my new son, and we went home leaving all the mess behind.
When the 9yr old turned 7, we held his party at an indoor cricket centre, which had an adjacent outdoor oval. We paid something like $200 to hire a guy for a couple of hours to run through cricket and soccer with the kids, and the kids loved the automatic ball machine that bowled cricket balls to them. We simply provided drinks, chips and some birthday cake. It was easy and, once again, worth the cost.
When the 7yr old had his 6th birthday party, we took a bunch of kids in two cars with us to an outdoor mini putt-putt centre, where we all played a round of golf then drove the kids across the road to the local McDonald's for food and ice-cream cake. It was a long party, mostly taken up with traveling time (four hours in total), but easy-peasy and not wildly expensive.
The 9yr old celebrated his last birthday with a game of laser skirmish at a local centre. It was quick - in and out - and everything was taken care of. We just turned up.
Even parties that are held in people's homes are becoming more elaborate with themes, hand-made decorations, cupcakes adorned with luscious icing, flowers, etc - which I LOVE. I can't get enough seeing photos of such parties, and wish I could do something similar. But I am personally just not up for the task. I can't even think where to start in putting together a colour coordinated string of flags or making a castle-like birthday cake, for example. Streamers and balloons and a purchased cake is about as far as I go.
Even the older 'kids' these days are turning to themes for their parties. When I turned 21, almost every party was identical, except perhaps for the location. A bunch of kids got together to drink, dance to either a DJ or a bunch of records thrown on by whoever was closest to the record player at the time, and that was that. Talking to a young girl at a clothing store last week, she was trying to work out what 'theme' to have for her 21st. 1920s? Cocktail? She couldn't decide, but she knew she wanted an old-fashioned photo booth. At my 21st, a friend ran around taking snaps of my big night.
Whilst I'm definitely a fan of sports parties and cricket parties and ten-pin bowling parties, I also kinda miss the parties of my youth. They were no doubt a lot of work for my parents - especially my mother - who baked like crazy leading up to my birthday, but I certainly have fond memories of them.
Perhaps our kids are actually missing out by having too much, and they just don't realise it?
How about you? Do you go all out for your kids' birthday parties? Would you pay a party-planner to organise it for you, or is that taking it too far?