Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Birthday Party Beef

Since when did birthday parties become glorified babysitting?

My son celebrated his 8th last month.  I invited his class (18).  One mother stayed.  Luckily I had enough family to help control the kids.  One mom dropped off three children - I realized in retrospect that her son was in another class and hadn't even been invited!

I was complaining to my partner, who always throws big parties.  He once decorated his entire backyard in the theme for CandyLand.  Last year he switched his kids to my school.  He told me that he had one birthday party for his daughter, she is in the second grade, and it was such a disaster he will never do it again.  He invited all the classes - 50 kids in all, and got 40 drop offs.  One mother stayed for the party.  It was such chaos that it scared and angered him.  One dad came to pick up his child at the end of two hours and was angry when he asked "Where is my child?" and my partner was not able to answer exactly where right off the bat.  "I thought I saw her entering my study a half hour ago but now, who knows?"

We both empathized.  Of course that child was found in a bedroom happily and healthfully, but how can you expect two parents, much less one (I am a single) to manage an entire party for two hours alone?  Is this a cultural thing?  Is it age related?  When my kids were younger, I had big events with bounce houses and arts and crafts booths and all the parents stayed and enjoyed getting to know each other.  I, like my partner, will never host a birthday party again in my own home.

Thoughts?  Experiences?  I think this is insanity.  Am I the crazy one?

18 comments:

  1. We mostly go to parties in a public location where the staff supports "babysitting." Sometimes they TELL you to leave b/c it's otherwise too crowded. But at someone's house, I always stay. I agree with you.. it's a lot to manage. Plus you probably don't even have contact info if someone is hurt.

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  2. Who invites 50 kids to a 7 year old's birthday party???? 50? Really?

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    1. He's pretty over the top, in a cool way.

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  3. after about age 5, it would never occur to me to stay at a birthday party, even those of our very very close friends (i may come back early for the cake/singing of those friends). and we dont host full class birthday parties every year, for this exact reason- its alot to manage.

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  4. My kids are too young so far to have experienced this. Good to know for the future, though. I agree with you, it sounds extremely unsafe and difficult to have that many kids cared for by 2 adults.

    As a child, my parents rarely stayed for kids' parties---only when they were friends with the parents themselves. But there were never more than 10-15 kids (often 5-7).

    Perhaps if you'd like parents to stay, and its a big party, you can specify that on the invite & provide some sort of entertainment/food for the parents so they aren't just sitting around hoping to sneak a crumb of pizza? Even for the little ones I've gone to birthday parties at meal times where there was only enough food for the kids and it was kind of awful.

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    1. I agree - when I did pizza dinner/roller rink for my daughter's 10th this Spring I had more than enough leftover for parents. And some, not just my close friends and family, did stay and partake. Specifying that might actually be important, if this is not a norm.

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  5. We had that awkward junior kindergarten year just finish up (4 and 5 year olds) - our solution? I asked up front if we were expected or not. If yes - we went. If not, we didn't. When it was our turn to host, I did a note for parents on the invite being clear - you can stay if you like, but if not, let us know, please, and BTW, you can't be late in picking up your kid (or at least contact us already). :) And yes, we only invited the number of kids we thought we could handle (10), and I insisted on contact info for all. So, I probably came across as "that parent", but, whatever. I was probably that parent anyway. What's new?

    Dropping siblings off, though, seems way, way out of line. Unreal. Eek!

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    1. That sounds reasonable, thanks - I think I will limit my numbers in the future.

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  6. Planning our 2 year olds party and from many forums online it says to explicitly state that a parent is expected to stay with their child. Crazy, right?!? I will definitely be putting that on our handmade invitations.

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  7. To be honest, by age 8 - and certainly beyond that age, I think it's the norm for parents *not* to stay unless they're specifically invited to do so.

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    1. I think you are probably right. My son is at the borderline age and I have dropped off my 10 year old. He only wanted two friends at 7 and all the parents stayed at 6 so it really snuck up on me, hosting that house party this year.

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  9. Funnily enough, I have the exact opposite complaint! I once hosted a party for my then 5 year old, and unexpectedly, all the parents stayed! This meant some 24 adults in the house, plus kids! I felt awful, as I hadn't catered for all the adults, and in fact, one of the mums smugly told me how she had catered coffee and food for parents at her child's party! I would have liked them to leave, save my close friends, as I had only catered for the children! The sibling issue is always hard - I think its lovely to be able to include them, but that absolutely should be the host parent's prerogative! If people are dropping off uninvited chidlren, that's plain rude, and totally using you as a baby sitter!

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    1. That is funny! I always include parents in host parties and had way too much food this time. As a single mom, the sibling issue has been there for me when they were younger. I usually contact the host in advance for permission and promise to feed my sibling in advance/pay for roller skates/whatever needed. I have hosted lots of siblings happily in return. I can handle the sibling issue much better than the uninvited drop-off - I agree.

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  10. I think parties should be small enough that parents are expected not to stay. The rule we had when I was growing up (and kept for my daughter) was your age plus 1 kid (6 kids when you are 5).

    Here are some of the reasons I like smaller parties better:
    1) when I went to big (all the class) parties when my daughter was younger, it was hard to figure out which kid was the birthday kid. I think you should be a big deal at your own birthday party, and that can't happen with 20 kids running around.
    2) How many presents can a kid handle? If there are only 5 kids, they can open their present in front of the other kids, a great opportunity to learn to be grateful out loud, and also for the other kids to get accustomed to not getting something and enjoying it. Plus, not so many thank you notes. Some of my daughters' friends had giant parties but then they gave away the presents to charity. Which seems sort of insulting.
    3) With a small group, you don't have to have a giant activity planned. You could even do pin the tail on the donkey. We had most of my daughter's birthday parties at home, with treasure hunts or other small group activities. We also had some bowling parties-- again ideal for 10 or fewer. Or we'd have a small group and a sleepover.
    4) You will get negative feedback from parents who are insulted their kid isn't invited. But it helps your kid learn to make choices (who are the most important 5?). Also, if everyone did it, you'd have a lot fewer presents to buy and afternoons taken up by parties. 1 every month or two seems like plenty, but if there are 25 kids in the class that's every other week. Yikes! Too much.

    Hoping not to sound not judgmental, but sensible. :-)

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    1. Not received as judgmental at all - very sensible. Although I have had a few small parties, I have erred on the side of "including everyone" often, at least in the class. It has been hard switching my kids to a new school at the age the bday parties are drop-off - Bday parties were a convenient way for a single doctor mom who doesn't make it to recess volunteer three days a week or pick up at carpool every day to meet other parents, when the kids were younger. My experience, and the voices of reason from above (including yours), make it clear that bday parties at this age are no longer an opportunity to meet the parents. I think part of my disappointment was realizing I need to shed that expectation.

      Giving presents to charity does seem insulting. At big parties I have done "gifts optional books only please" with good results. I have also seen "bring something to donate to a local animal shelter," which I like, but when I give my kids this option vs. receiving presents and writing thank you's the latter inevitably wins out.

      I think my kids are getting to the age where shrinking is best. Yet I did do this with my daughter for her 9th after moving to new school, and she wanted something different the next year - felt like she alienated classmates at her new school and that didn't help her transition. So we did the large roller rink/invite everyone for her 10th. Drop off's not so bad with support staff, as someone mentioned above. I guess ultimately what I learned from this is not to expect parents to stay after 7 or 8, and plan accordingly.

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