Monday, January 22, 2007

Birthdays Without Pressure?

In my morning paper there was a feature about a new group called Birthdays Without Pressure, formed by St. Paul, Minnesota parents who aim to break the cycle of one-upsmanship that drives parents to throw extravagant birthday parties. I agree with their basic idea, but I am ambivalent about the need to form an acutal advocacy group to call for this change. What do you think: are out-of-control birthday parties such a prevalent social scourge that we need to form groups to combat it? Or can families opt-out on an individual basis?

I can see the need for a group to create counter-support to break the peer pressure feeling that it's necessary to throw a big party, but I worry that to "combat" it, we will need to spend even more time and energy on this issue than is really necessary.

After throwing a major party for our daughter's 5th birthday, since then we've asked her to choose one friend each year to do something special with her on her day. We'll see what happens next year. She is suddenly fixated on ear-piercing for her 8th birthday present, which is not my first choice for her (my baby!), but there is room for negotiation.

Being creative helps revive a party. My daughter went to an Egyptian-themed birthday party this weekend, which I thought was a really cool idea. I didn't attend, but our family had a great time figuring out how to come up with an Egyptian outfit using what we already had in the house. It actually turned into one of those fun and genuine "raid the closet and put on Mommy's eyeshadow" moments.

Birthdays Without Pressure has many ideas for birthday party alternatives, including:

• Bringing a gift to share with someone; everyone gets one gift

• Simple activities (such as a walk around a lake, a treasure hunt)

• Planning and preparing for the party with the birthday child

• Family-only birthday parties

• No gifts bags

• Doing community service in lieu of a party

• For every gift “in,” give something away

But I did not like their "Rate Your Community's Pressure" quiz, which only included negative choices about parties. There was no opportunity to rate the rewarding aspects of birthday celebrations. My "score" of 8 on a scale of 0-20 caused the website to rate my town as a "High pressure community. You probably live in a land of hyper-parenting. Find allies and start a local Birthdays Without Pressure group."

They had me on their side with the helpful suggestions but pissed me off when they judged my community so narrowly and told me that now I should start my own local group!!!


Blogger A. Lin said...

My oldest is 4 years old, and we have never had a birthday party for him. That doesn't mean that he has never been to a birthday party--in fact, those parties make him want to have one for himself.

When he turns 5 this year, I am considering letting him have a party for his preschool class. I have set in my mind that there will be parties for him and his younger brother at ages 5, 10, and 15.

For his fourth birthday, I took him to Build-a-Bear. He had never been there before, and it made the day special. Other birthdays have been very small family celebrations with a couple of presents and cake.

I have found that at birthday parties there are just too many presents. Add them up, and the child gets more than Christmas--depending on how many people come to the party.

If we do have this 5th birthday party, it is going to be a "no gift" event. I have already planted the idea in my son's head. I think that his friends will have enough fun playing together and eating cake.

I don't think we need a group to have "birthdays without pressure." I just think that parents need to have some limits.

1:51 PM  

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