Bring It Down A Notch

Who The H*ll Let Kids' Birthday Parties Get So Out Of Control?

Yup, I am totally guilty of going overboard too.

A group of young girls having fun with their friends at a birthday celebration
Flashpop/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Just before dinner last Tuesday, I wrangled my soon-to-be five-year-old daughter onto the couch for a very important conversation. “Sweetie, we need to plan your birthday party and we have a few choices. Would you like to have it at the YMCA, a trampoline park, or in the backyard?” I smiled as I waited for her response, knowing I had just presented three wonderfully fun suggestions. I envisioned the three options and how happy she would be playing with her little friends — but she had her own plans.

“So, I want an LOL Surprise party at the YMCA and I want animals to be there and I want JoJo Siwa to come.”

Ummm, say what?! “Oh, honey, they don’t allow animals at the YMCA and I think Jojo might be busy but it is still going to be amazing, I’m so excited!”

“So, I can’t even have a theme then?! I don’t even want a birthday!”

Now, I will take some responsibility for some of her outrageous birthday (and life) demands. I spoil my kids more than I should, and I can admit it. At her birthday last year, every attendee received sparkly butterfly wings to wear as they watched a front yard reptile show under a hand-strung rainbow balloon arch. It was a few months after I had spray painted twenty five large cardboard boxes and posters to turn my six year old son’s backyard bash into a nerf-target battlefield. So, I get it — and I’m not proud.

But I also owe a large thank you to the insanely absurd birthday culture we (collectively) have created for our kids. We live at a time where extravagant and extreme parties are littered all over our social media feeds, on our televisions, and in magazines. The Kardashians, various Real Housewives, and of course influencers have set the party bar so out of reach, and yet so many of us are reaching for it still. So here I am, exhausted and strung out, pleading that we all make a pact to chill out with our kids birthday parties. And I’m talking to myself as much as anybody else, let me be clear.

The lavish, heavily ‘grammed parties create expectations. They warp the minds of parents — hello, here I am! — and set unreal hopes for parties that are supposed to be casual, cute, and family focused. (Seriously — Jojo Siwa?) And because so many of us do not have the time, money, or energy to create such a perfectly decorated fanfare, we are often left feeling defeated.

And we — and again, I do very much include myself in this, as somebody who invited a fleet of ponies into my small backyard one Saturday morning — are unintentionally sabotaging a lot of the parents around us. The ones who can’t afford these lavish affairs, whose schedules don’t allow for the crafting and prep work, or whose mental load is already at capacity. And maybe you think it is not your responsibility to hold back your personal big party dreams to minimize another moms’ potential insecurity – but I think maybe it is. I think it’s time we all come together and play by the same rules – or at least try to when we can. Because motherhood is hard enough.

So let’s lower the bar back to when it was when we were kids. Let's put down a plastic tablecloth, hang up an average amount of cheap decorations, and eat a slice of single tiered cake. Let’s ditch the pomp and circumstance and resist the urge to turn our daughter’s fourth birthday into a miniature wedding reception because I promise – we will all be better for it. Oh, and don’t bother inviting Jojo Siwa — she doesn’t do birthday parties. I already tried.

Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.