It is that time of the year again when L starts talking endlessly about the birthday party that he wants. L’s birthday is at the end of August and so we have to start thinking about it early so as to get the invites out and preferably answered before the end of term. These days I am a lot calmer and more laid back about parties than I used to be and I know that the subject of children’s parties often provokes mixed feelings with parents.
That is without the cost of it all. It can be really surprising how the cost of paying for the party, party bags and the food can seriously mount up and of course most children still expect a large present to go with it. This makes for a big financial drain year in year out and worse if you have more than one child.
When O was small,it was the norm to have a party every year. Usually it was a play barn type affair which cut out a lot of the parental stress but also emptied the purse. When I say it was the norm, all of his ‘friends’ at nursery and then school had parties every year; one of them even had two (the mother felt that a year was too long so she let him have two birthdays!!). O was my first child and life as a first time mother often felt a bit like treading water and so I went with the flow and we did play barn parties, bouncy castle parties and then probably a few more play barn parties.
Children’s parties are a huge business these days and those parents who lack time or inspiration can pay oodles of cash for a variety of different people/animals/things to entertain their little ones. A mum I chat to at swimming was looking into the possibility of having a donkey party for her daughter where a chap would bring three donkeys to their garden for a couple of hours. The cost? A mere £290. £290!! I know that it is a lovely idea and all but £290!! I did have to say that I thought that was a ridiculous amount. She was still thinking about it when I last spoke to her but was also toying with the idea of having a pamper party and getting someone to come in and do hair and make up with the girls instead which was still quite expensive but not as much as having three donkeys trampling the garden.
I do wonder if we are in serious danger of losing the point of birthday parties. We want to make our children happy and to bring them together with a few friends and maybe family to celebrate their special day. It shouldn’t have to cost the earth or be stressful for everyone involved and I genuinely don’t think that there has to be a party every year.
There will certainly never be any donkey parties in this house, but in recent years I have tried to be more creative; gone are the play barn parties in favour of discos, Lego parties, climbing parties and sports parties in the garden. The boys went to a treasure hunt party last year and it is still ranked as their favourite party. Such a simple idea and the kids loved it, although you would have to have reasonable weather. Another friend hired the local village hall and had a Nerf gun party. She hardly spent a lot and again the kids had the best time.
L’s party for this year is in the early ideas stage, but I am determined that I am going to do it on a budget and hopefully it will be lovely. Maybe if I am really lucky I will even get everyone to respond to the invitations too .. but that is a whole different blog post.