It seemed easier to keep birthday parties for my kids realistic when they were smaller. We had usually one or two children (Whose mother's I am friends with), a little lunch, cupcakes and a play. I always do a family supper, as well, because I always had one when I was growing up and because it's a nice reason to get together and my parent's appreciate it.
While browsing on Pinterest for cake ideas I was stunned to realize that some people hire event planners for their children's birthday parties (one that I saw had invited 80 guests to a one year old's party). That just doesn't happen in this neck o' the woods, and I'm glad not to have that pressure. In fact, I'm going a bit rogue and defying the convention of giving little gifts to the kids that attend my son's 6th birthday party this Sunday. It's not that I don't like all the little folk that will come to slide on our hill and play in our basement. It's really just that I feel someone needs to give the other moms permission to stop spending a whack of money on other kids when they might be struggling to buy a gift for their own child's birthday. Even if they aren't struggling (and no one wants to admit that they are) we have a resource-based economy and whether we like it or not we are all dependent upon it. The price of oil has dropped dramatically, food banks are seeing 20% more traffic, breadwinners are being laid off and sent home from jobs, all at the same time as the price of produce at the grocery store has jumped by 13% (heard that one on the radio this morning). This isn't a post about the economy, though. If the local economy wasn't struggling I would still be trying to talk sense about the spendy customs we are creating for our kids and neighbours to uphold. We are spending money on cheap "stuff" because it is expected of us--stuff that as moms we all hate having more of in our homes--and we are doing it out of a need to keep up or out do. I'm just not getting on that train. I've opted this year not to buy little do-dads for gift bags for the kids; I'm not contributing my money to "Made in China" junk that will wind up in the land fill. But as an offering to the families who are so kind as to spend their Sunday afternoon with us, celebrating the birthday of our special little 6 year old, I'm sending home a dozen homemade gingersnap cookies. A treat that won't get broken and thrown away or cause clutter, noise and be lost amidst a sea of other plastic toys. I hope the other moms approve, and we are simple country people so I'm sure that they will. But even if my choice is considered cheap or thoughtless, I am hoping my decision gives another mom permission to do something similar so that we can stop teaching our kids to expect something new every time they go anywhere.
Other ways that I'm trying to keep the cost of birthdays down is having a sliding party in our yard rather than renting a venue. The weather is supposed to be nice so we will have a fire and marshmallows and sliding until 4 when each kid gets to build their own smiley face pizza (J's request, it's something we used to do and I was touched that he wanted to have that for his birthday supper with friends). The pizza crust recipe is from my America's Test Kitchen cookbook, as is the cake that I am making for tonight's supper with my family. Sunday's cake recipe is one from my friend's mom. All of the food will be homemade because I have the time and enjoy doing it, and because it saves us loads of money. The cost of 2 purchased cakes would be $50 or more. I'm sure I can pull off both meals for just over that amount.
Last but not least, we surprised J by putting a birthday announcement on the radio station that he hears while riding the bus to school. The driver texted me that he was thrilled, and I do believe he will remember hearing his name on the radio all of his life. That didn't cost a dime, and it's important to teach our kids that feeling happy doesn't have to cost any money and it doesn't come from getting "stuff". Love is all around us if we are taught to feel it, not expect it to come in gift wrapped packages with large price tags :)
|From The Parent's Tao Te Ching (via Pinterest)|