When did it become a competition between parents to see who could spend the most money and go over the top for their child’s birthday parties? A birthday party used to be a time you went to someone’s house in your best clothes, ate jelly & ice cream, played pass the parcel and went home with a slice of cake. But no longer. Now if you don’t have fireworks, a laser show, Coldplay in your back garden and Derren Brown as the entertainment for your four year old somehow you have failed in your parental duties.
This ridiculous one-upmanship that goes on in primary and secondary schools is getting more out of hand by the year. For Jake’s 5th Birthday we hired out the local community centre which had a bouncy castle and let the kids run around for two hours with some juice and crisps and they seemed happy enough with that. Even if the party is simple the downside then is that each parent tries to out do each other with the cake, the food and the goodie bag at the end. £20-30 some people must spend on things that are usually just thrown in the bin. We got Jake’s stuff either from Poundland or from Ebay, no chance were we spending a fortune on that kind of thing.
Speaking to other parents everyone appears to feel the same way yet these shows of money still seem to happen. And that is the issue – it stops being about the child and is all about the social pecking order of the parents, well I don’t play that game. As you may guess I am an awkward bastard at the best of times and put me at a party with those nippy parents and I revert to my working class roots when they boast about little Tarquin’s school report and make snide comments. It’s also a pain in the arse when they find out you’re a teacher because they always have an opinion on education, which is the point I am either brutally honest with them or start making things up to send them off confused. I usually get told off by the wife for shouting a our kids at these things too – and occasionally other people’s kids because they can’t behave. Why am I the one in the wrong when kids are battering each other and not taking turns on things?
Add to the mix the issue of buying a present and silly amount of money some people spend on that for a kid in their class (and you have to invite all the class of course otherwise the nattering mums clique give you dirty looks in the playground). The average cost of a kid’s birthday party is £300 with some admitting to spending up to £800 on their little darling’s day. “Oh your only one once” – yes and the chances of them remembering the remaining Drifters jumping out of a cake singing ‘Happy Birthday’ is definitely not wasted on them.
Then there are the issue with the games you can play and food you can serve because of the health implications. Gone are the sweets & cakes replaced by vegetable batons and dips, wholemeal breadsticks and dip, fruit juice instead of fizzy juice and “special” cake because at least half the kids have an allergy of some description. Games wise no musical bumps in case they hurt themselves and try not to have a game where they aren’t all winner of course – prizes for all!
And it doesn’t stop when they’re older either because kids now expect parents to leave their houses when they are 13 or 14 so they can have a party with all their friends (and everyone else invited on Facebook). That is closely followed by the Sweet Sixteen bollocks from the US that is becoming a trend over here because of a TV show of the same name. Don’t see that happening. A party, an after party, a meal with family, a meal with friends, a spa day/paintballing day and a shopping trip all for one birthday (as well as the obligatory car on their 17th if you work in the area I do)? F*ck off – if you think I’ve got that kind of money you really don’t know me very well at all and stop watching those US programmes please. You can have one of those (not the car though obviously).
Kids are happy with a big space or a cardboard box. Let’s stop using our kids to become social climbers and posing arseholes please. Teenagers you want a party? Get a job so you can hire a scout hall/community centre and a disco like we had to and stop your bloody moaning.
One final note to these annoying parents – just because you spend a fortune on your little darling’s birthday and all the trimmings doesn’t make them any less annoying and unlikeable.