Friday, March 7, 2014

Birthday Parties....Then and Now...

Do you remember your childhood birthday parties? Because I do. Probably not individual parties, but a miss-mash of years of eating cake and opening presents and popping balloons. Some memories, of course, really stick out-while others are vague and blend into my whole "kid birthday party" schema. I did have a great time at those parties though...I know that!

My sister and I were riding back to my house after going out to breakfast with the kids (breakfast is basically the only meal that Alex will willingly participate in...but that's for another post). I mentioned that I had started to plan for Hayden's first birthday which, incidentally, won't be until May. So I guess here is the first difference between birthday parties then and birthday parties now. I'm pretty sure that my mom didn't plan our parties two months in advance. She knew who she was inviting, she knew a general idea of "when" ("where" was a our house...duh) and did not use invites-but would call up the whole family and give them the "when" and "what time".

Anyway...I told my sister that we were doing a Pink Sock Monkey theme and what caterer I was going to use (in my defense...the first birthday party is always one of the largest and do I really want to miss it because I'm cooking???). She kind of just looked at me and said, "What's with all the themed parties these days? We never had any themed parties". Sister is single and has no kids. I should have started out with that.

But, it got us thinking and reminiscing.  There WERE no themed parties. Even kid parties lacked a theme. OK, maybe the theme was "balloons"...because that's what decorated our plates and napkins. So when did themes become a big thing? Our cakes was usually half a sheet cake with pink or purple or yellow flowers providing a decorative border. Or maybe, maybe we had a Carvel ice cream cake with those chocolate crunchy bits in the center (which was really the best part).

Things I remember from my kid parties: No themed cakes, balloons, plain plastic-ware, ziti (because there was always baked ziti at our kid parties), Jello mold, chef salad, bowls of the original cheese Doritos, because there were no other flavors, wrapped presents-because gift bags weren't really around, or I don't remember them being a thing, Pin the Tail on the Donkey (cliched, but we really did this), having a peanut hunt when weather permitted, having a pool party because my birthday is in summer (note-pool parties are still more than "acceptable" these days still), water balloon fights, playing tag outside, playing "Ghost Busters" outside, getting my first Cabbage Patch doll-which was TOTALLY 'da bomb. Barbies Barbies Barbies (none of the skankier/trendier big headed dolls)! Adults hung out with adults and drank and smoked cigarettes IN THE HOUSE, which my mother would NEVER allow these days (my parents never smoked, just the aunts/uncles), and there was always plenty of beer/wine for the aunts/uncles/older cousins/grandparents. Kids hung out with kids. No one hovered over us. We were given food, given cake and ice cream, but generally were expected to amuse ourselves with various toys laying around (or the aforementioned activities). There was, once in awhile, a pinata.

Man. Those were great days! We had fun. We had a blast! I still love revisiting those memories-and they were awesome frills...just enjoying each others company. Of course, then the first gen Nintendo came out and that led parties to get a little crazy. Duck Hunt while high on Pixie Sticks-yes m'am!

These days, parties are different. The kids still have a ton of fun. Hopefully, my kids will be able to reminisce about their parties when they are my age. BUT-things have definitely been taken up a notch.

In my social circle...almost everyone has their kid parties OUT (except for maybe the first birthday). With Alex, we tend to do two for just the family at our house and then the other for her friends/our friends with kids.

Parties now are at a bounce houses, Build-A-Bear, My Gym, various activity centers, Chuck E Cheese, Dave & Busters, a gymnastics center, ice skating rink, miniature golf...shall I go on? Because I could. And if you have them at home, you are usually expected to have various activities on hand, no letting the kids fend for themselves...there's bounce houses to rent, face-painters to hire, food to order/have catered. And I'm not saying that this is **necessarily** a bad thing. Well, the expectation part is...

And I'm not being snarky. I'm "guilty" of doing all of this. For Hayden's first birthday-we are totally theme-ing it out! My whole house will be pink sock monkey. She may even be in a pink sock monkey tutu (note...birthday outfits are also a "relatively" new thing...along with the popularity of tutus). When I was a kid-I wore my sister's hand-me-down dress with big sleeves and possible shoulder pads. So whatever.

I think, many times, parents do all of the above for the fun of it, and/or for the convenience. It's FUN (for us) to get the kids dressed up, to deck the house out in crazy decorations, to thrill them with a cake with their favorite character. Especially the first birthday-that one is for us moms! It's also damn convenient to have a birthday out. No cleaning the house, no slaving over food, no picking up after the party...and everyone has fun. So if those are our reasons....good on us! Things change, times change, traditions and practices change...that's life.

But I wonder if we also have gone above and beyond because children have gone to so many bounce house parties that they expect it? They expect to go out? Expect to be entertained? They aren't expected to entertain themselves and to simply be left ALONE to play with random toys? Kids need to be stimulated...but these also need to learn that they aren't going to always be entertained by someone/something else...they need to do their own thing sometimes (thus why I resist getting Alex involved in TOO many activities).

So I hope this isn't the reason why "place" parties have begun to become so popular. I hope it's simply because it's fun and convenient, but not expected. Because when stuff becomes expected, that's when the problems start....

1 comment:

  1. I already starting thinking of themes for Lucy and Clara's first birthday and that's not until September! I think it's fun for us, even if they don't remember.