Have We Taken Kid’s Birthday Parties Too Far?
I threw a huge party for my first child’s one year old birthday. He was completely oblivious of the people, the food and the gifts. I think I really threw it for ourselves as a pat on the back that we managed to keep him alive successfully for a whole year. Go Us.
After that there wasn’t another party until all the kids were in school. Cue calling into Maccas to pick up the requisite number of invitations and all I had to do was turn up, sit back and watch a bunch of kids destroy a plethora of chicken nuggets, fries and an ice cream cake. Someone always fell over on the playground equipment, there were tears and squabbles while I relaxed with the other parents smug in the knowledge that it was the poor 15 year old’s on duty that had to deal with it all. When it was over, we lugged the loot home and that was it for another year.
Then….high school years arrived. And so did the competition between the
parents, kids. First we had sleep-overs with a handful of kids. Then it progressed into discos with hired juke-boxes, disco balls, pumping music, frozen drink machine complete with plenty of party food AND a sleep-over which of course also required the preparation of a vast breakfast for an array of picky eaters from toast, cereal, bacon and eggs, fruit, juices, and pancakes.
And then….my daughter went to a “Survivor” themed party. Complete with tasks, tribal council and contestants being voted off. She declared it the best. party. eva.
I was presented with a monumental challenge and not being one to be out-done came up with one better. The Fear Factor Party.
My daughter (who was turning 15 at the time) had virtually zero to do with it as I set to work with a frenzy. There were:
– Printed t-shirts for the judges (myself, my husband and her brother)
– Waivers for all contestants to sign prior to participating – you know, in case of serious injury or death
– Trophies and prizes including a $200 Westfield voucher for first place
– Actual, real cow’s eye-balls procured after a billion phone calls to various butchers and abattoirs
– A snake and reptile handler who turned up mid proceedings
– A Fear Factor logo cake which cost roughly the same as my mortgage payment
I can’t remember all the challenges now but they included transferring the eyeballs with their mouths on spoons from one cup to another, a gross food eating contest (one of the girls thought the re-fried beans was dog food and threw up), a keep-your-feet in the ice as long as possible, finding coins in a bucket full of maggots and worms (that was fun to clean up the next day), as well as a bunch of physical challenges including collecting flags off a ladder suspended between two of our trucks parked in our driveway. The entire thing was videotaped and the competition was beyond fierce and it was a colossal success. I rode the waves of that glory for months. Kids at school talked about it for weeks and I had people telling me I should plan parties for a living. In fact, it was so good that no other parent ever bothered to try and top it. I had set the bar impossibly high and celebrations went back to sleep-overs again (at least in her crowd).
I shudder to think about how much the entire thing cost. But at the end of the day – did I do it for her or for my own glory? Probably a bit of both…
And I am FAR from alone with the vast majority of new parents wanting to celebrate the survival of their first-borns by throwing a party. And even that is expensive by the time you factor in a themed cake, food for the kids and the adults, decorations and of course, alcohol for the long-suffering friends and family that reluctantly drag their feet along with the average cost around $600.
And then when they get older come the magicians, the photographers, the caterers, and on and on and on. And do they even remember or appreciate any of it?
Is it time to pull it back to the good old Woolies mud cake and a picnic at the park?
How much and how far do you go to for your kid’s parties?