Please Do Not Let Over-The-Top Birthday Parties Be The New Normal

by Meredith Ethington
Originally Published: 
A lot of kids next to a cake at an outdoor birthday party

As far as I can remember, I had one really big birthday party as a kid. It was my 10th birthday, and we got all dressed up and went downtown and did a tour of a fancy building. Then, my friends and I all got to sleep in a giant 12-man tent in our backyard. After that, I proceeded to spend the entire night inside throwing up while my friends had a slumber party without me.

Other than that, I remember birthdays being pretty simple: cake, friends, and maybe a Slip ‘N Slide in the backyard since I was born in the hell that is Texas in August. We usually found a way to entertain ourselves too.

I always remember birthday parties being a big deal in my family, but not in the craft-your-own-unicorn-cake-pops-on-a-stick sort of way. But I felt like they were a really big deal because the day was truly all about me. And I always felt really, really special.

Because, excuse me, isn’t that the point of birthday parties?

I think it’s time for parents to unite and calm the heck down about birthday parties already. Back away from that Pinterest board where you’re frantically pinning things like how to make a bounce house from Mylar balloons, and just chill for a second and hear me out.

Now that I’m a mom, I’ve done both kinds of parties. Before I knew better, I did the crazy themed party where I spent hours constructing a Tinkerbell birthday cake and set up treasure hunts in my backyard, only for the 3-year-old to want to watch a movie in her Tinkerbell dress all by herself. And I’ve done the super simple birthday parties where we take our kids and their friends to a movie.

And let me let you in on a little secret, parents: Your kids don’t feel more loved if you make poop emojis on a stick. All they need in a birthday party is for you to remember the day first and foremost, and second, make them feel loved. Friends aren’t even required.

Momsplained shares how to throw a kids’ birthday party and survive:


But if you must plan a friend party, think about a way to just make it simpler for all of us. I know that there are some moms who just love going all out. They find joy in crafting tutus for every princess in attendance, and Lego marshmallow-pop party favors for their friends. However, my guess is that many moms are begrudgingly hot gluing their fingers together in the name of handcrafted party décor because they think this is now the new normal.

Please don’t let this be the new normal. For the love, help us all out and throw a mediocre party. It will still be okay.

Both of my boys have birthdays in the winter. Since we live in the North, birthday party spots are limited. I can either have them at my house or pay a small fortune to rent a place like the local bounce house pit where someone for sure will catch a nasty case of pinkeye.

But this year, I had an idea. Let’s just go back to a 1970s birthday party like I had as a kid. Keep it simple. Buy canned frosting and a few balloons.

And so far, it’s been my best parenting idea yet, besides teaching my kids how to quietly turn on the TV on Saturday mornings.

Let me introduce to you the mini-party as I like to call it. Here’s how it goes down:

There is no theme.

They get to invite two to three of their best friends. Your kid picks a fun place to go. You grab some cheap food afterwards. The end.

And there are definitely no party favor bags being handed out. Getting invited to a fun place with your friend should be enough of a gift for a kid who isn’t even the birthday boy or girl.

It’s simple really, and the genius of the mini-party is that it is less work for you, and it really, truly, is all about your kid. After all, your kid is the one making the plans.

For both of my boys who have birthdays right around Christmas, this is the perfect solution. Their two friends brought some simple gifts (although that wasn’t required either), and I paid for everything. But with just a few kids there, it was a less expensive way to pay to possibly get a case of E. coli at the trampoline park rather than forking out the birthday party fee of $200.

If you’re not sure where to start, and you still find yourself hovering over that “Pin it” button telling you how to make a T. rex out of cupcake liners, look at pictures of that last over-the-top party you threw and will yourself to remember how you went to bed at 5 p.m. because you were so exhausted after. Your sanity is just not worth making each kid his own tiki torch to take home.

You’re making it harder for yourself, and the rest of us.

Let’s just unite, once and for all, and slap together a sheet cake (or grab some cupcakes at the bakery), maybe wrap a few presents for the birthday boy/girl, invite some kids over and let them come up with their own plan to have fun down in the basement while we blow up a few balloons and read a book until they get bored.

After all, your kid doesn’t care if you make fishing rod pretzels. They just want to eat too much sugar with their friends and feel loved. And you can do that without killing yourself. Come on now.

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