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Of Birthdays and Dilemmas

I have a confession.

Of Birthdays and Dilemmas

I’m petrified of birthday parties. The birthday parties of little kids. Especially the themed ones! Barbie,Superheroes, Ben10, Disney, Spiderman, the list is endless. When someone invites me to one, I get the heebie-jeebies. What if I’m not able to find the right costumes/clothes for the twins before the party? What if my kids demand the same kind of party in their house? What if we stand out like a sore thumb in the crowd (Since my kids have no idea about the characters after whom the parties are themed)??

I’ve heard people say that theme parties are the IN thing today. Children dress-up, enjoy, have fun, get loads to eat and go back home with party favours, clearly, a contented lot. I attend very few birthday parties. I’ve barely taken my children to a couple of birthdays in their 4 years of existence. Its not as if I’m stunting their social growth (they are free to meet up with kids on other days), I just don’t want my children to get absorbed in the vicious web of themed parties, since that is what is expected and carried out these days :|. If keeping them away from birthdays is a way to curtail their demands of the same, then I’m all in for it.

But first, a little on what gets my goat.

I totally despise the notion that unless you don’t spend gazillion amount on your child’s birthday, you don’t love them enough. Frankly, I’ve barely spent some amount on my children’s birthdays all these years and we are all still a tightly knit loving family, thank you very much.
Secondly, who benefits from these parties?

Probably the event managers, they earn cart-loads. Probably the parents, gaining social standing, maybe even envy. Not your child for whom you keep the party. If your kids gets friends based on how lavish his birthday parties are, then chances are that he’s going to be really lonely during hard times. Bitter, but its true. Something like that advertisement that comes on television of an international car brand. A bunch of kids give special treatment to another classmate because he comes to school in that large car while the other gape in awe.

Here, the kid getting the special treatment has done nothing more than flaunt his father’s wealth, yet he is shown surrounded by a coterie of devoted classmates. This advertisement sucks on so many levels that it demands another write-up by itself.

Anyhow, I digress.

The children you invite for a party, do not enjoy the party based on how much you spend on it. children are fickle-minded. My party may not be the grandest they’ve been to. Children are fickle. Tomorrow if they visit any other event on a much larger scale, they will easily forget the party they had at mine. I can go ahead and buy all the stuff, streamers, balloons, party sprays, confetti, cakes, gifts,etc. But can I guarantee that the children will be truly have a great time?!

I cant help but compare it with the parties we had as kids. Mom would bake a cake with none of the fussy frosting. There would be plenty of goodies to eat. We would have birthday games like passing-the-parcel, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, memory (do children play this anymore??) and the best of the lot, the treasure hunt!

Usually, the elder siblings would take care of organizing the games and mom would be responsible for the food. Fathers looked around appreciatively, at times a mute spectator and at others, the appointed judge to resolve disputes. We would wrap up within an hour or so and the party favours would be distributed by the Birthday boy/girl.All went home hale and happy and the kids would talk about it for days.

Today, I have friends whose kids demand parties where a DJ is a must. Only because some other classmate had one at his party. Today, its more about peer-pressure. Of fitting in with the ‘haves’. The ‘have-nots’ are neither invited nor entertained. Heck, even the schools refrain from gathering students from different financial backgrounds.

On the twin’s first birthday, we donated the money. On the second, we went to a zoo, on the third, we had a little get-together at home with the neighborhood kids. In fact, we’ve had the neighborhood’s kids coming in each year, but we never celebrated any theme. I cooked food, the husband was in charge of the games. Everyone in the family would sit around and cheer the kids in their games. In all, we would have a warm, wonderful time.

We may not have the snazziest parties in town, but the truth is that all the children in our society remember the twin’s birth-date. Every year, they look forward to it. A week in advance, they would tentatively ask me if they are invited 😀 . Given the number of kids here, I think it’s an achievement!

So really, the charm isn’t in how much you spend, except maybe in terms of time. A lot depends on the level of involvement you show, the care and effort you take , the personal attention you shower. A bouncy castle or a magician can be found at any amusement park. A party at McDonalds is just another evening out. Little children only remember the generous way in which you stuff their plates with food, the kindness with which everyone is treated and the fairness of judgement when they play. Overall, warmth is all they need. You can keep your money to yourself!
If you haven’t tried an at-home party, try it. Keep it low-key on budget and high-key on enthusiasm. It makes all the difference.  Believe me, your children will love it more.

Noorulayn Syed is a full-time wife, professional, daughter-in-law and an all-time mother (that’s because she wanted to be a mother since she was knee-high). Find more posts on her twins at