I have such great memories of birthday parties from when I was growing up. My parties, my friends parties, family parties, they were all the same. They were great. Back then, a birthday party was simple. Generally, the whole class was invited for simple food and a homemade cake, maybe some pin the tail on the donkey, and if you were really lucky, a pool party. The parents would drop the kids off and not have a worry in the world.
Back in the day, the birthday party actually revolved around the child whose birthday it was. The children played, ate, and then gathered in a circle while the birthday boy/girl opened his/her presents. It was a momentous occasion. The child would coo over the gifts, and the party made them feel that on that day that they were special. The other children, having been taught manners, would sit and admire the gifts politely (even through envy) and clap with joy with each unveiling.
As any current day parent knows, things have changed. This is how "birthday parties" happen now:
1. Meet at bounce house place
2. Set presents on a table, never to be seen again
3. Kids play, moms chat
4. 15 minutes of pizza/cake/singing happy birthday
5. Everyone leaves
6. If you are lucky you get a thank you card, if not, you can assume that your gift was lost on the table.
What happened to birthdays? Where in this schedule is the birthday boy or girl supposed to feel special? I don't get it. Aren't birthday parties supposed to be about the child whose birthday it is? Did somebody write a law saying that children shouldn't open their presents at the party?
I have had moms tell me that it's rude to have the child open gifts at the party. My response to this is usually "Really?! Because at your bridal shower you made us sit through every stinking one". Oh, I get it--that was "your day". Well your child's birthday is just as important. The point of celebrating a child's birthday should be just that - to celebrate. Instead, we spend the time worrying about the perfect decorations and location, while the child is ignored. For 90% of the party, they could be at anyone's party, not their own. The 10% where we sing happy birthday and cut a cake doesn't really count as an actual birthday party. It makes me feel sad, even if the children do not - after all, this is all they know. Most of them have never been to an actual birthday party where the child opens gifts and is celebrated. I know my son has yet to see this, and he is 7.
Until now all of my son's birthday parties have been family only. Sometimes that means 5 or so family members, sometimes it is just the 3 of us. Each one has been memorable. I decorate and bake him a cake, or order one if that is what he wants, and we all sit and watch as he opens each gift. It is magical, because it is all about him. After all, it is HIS birthday. He is a child and this is his day. He has been asking for a "birthday party" like his friends have, and I may give in, but I have a feeling he won't like it as much as he thinks he will. If he does, that's fine, but in the meantime I think that we are cheating our kids out of authentic birthdays.
Perhaps if we had smaller birthdays, with smaller cakes, gifts that were actually opened, and loved ones surrounding us, we would provide our children with memories, not just parties.
If you think I am wrong, just take a moment and reflect on a birthday when you were a child - opening your presents with your friends in your living room. Think about it.
***Edited to add: IF we have a "big" birthday party this year, he has decided to ask people to donate to a charity of his choice instead of gifts, so the opening of gifts wont be an issue anyway. NO, I don't know where he got such a kind heart from, but it's probably not me!**