Sunday, July 1, 2007

Making Birthdays Special

I've heard a lot of conversations lately about children and birthdays. How do we make them special? Do we tend to go overboard? Are our kid's deprived if they don't get a $200 party at Chuck E. Cheese's every year? I think, much like most of American society, birthdays have become a consumer frenzy. I feel that the birthday party should be a fun time for the kids, but we need to remember why we are there - to celebrate another year in the life of a child. I think the most important part of these celebrations is spending time with friends and family. Personally, we have tried (and not always succeeded) to have non-commercial birthday parties for our son. His first birthday was a big blowout with all the family (my husband has a HUGE extended family) at the park (thanks Nana!), and the next 3 parties were done at home. I can't see spending the vast amounts of cash to have a kid's party at Chuck E. Cheese or Pump It Up. Sure, it's fun, but I think you start to get a diminished "Wow" factor. I read an article in the Tightwad Gazette about the "wow" factor, which essentially is how much do you have to spend, both in time and money, to get a "wow" out of your kids (or other family members, for that matter) when it comes to gifts, parties, and other activities. If you go to Disneyland every year, it ceases to be special, so then you have to raise the ante and start going to Disney World, and where do you go when that ceases to be special? If we keep having parties at "party places", what happens when we have parties at home? Do the kids see them as not as good? Boring? Or do they see them as being special because they aren't the norm anymore? These are the things I wonder about. Nana is throwing my son's birthday party this year, another big family blowout at the park. She wants to do something big and special for his fifth birthday. It's hard to believe he's turning 5 this year! I think having a big party every 5 years is fine. Do we have to do something spectacular every year? I don't think so. But it can still be special.

OK, stepping off the soapbox now....

So far my son's parties (aside from the park party) have included homemade cake, ice cream, homemade games, homemade decorations, and a piƱata. For his first birthday we did a Bear in the Big Blue House theme (he loved Bear!), but it was really hard to find any decorations, especially for the cake, so I just did a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and a "1" candle on top. We did some games for the older kids, including a treasure hunt, that went over pretty well. His second birthday was a Totoro party, based on the movie "My Neighbor Totoro". I figured out how to make a Totoro-shaped cake and also made soot-sprite cupcakes. The frosting didn't stay spikey, but they still turned out cute. :) For games we did Pin the Smile on Cat Bus. His third birthday we did a train theme (not Thomas, at the time we thought Thomas was creepy), and you can tell by the picture, that _someone_ got to the cake before I did. I was busy getting ready for the party while the cake cooled, when I hear a little voice coming from the kitchen saying "Good job!" and little hands clapping. Needless to say there were frantic phone calls made to my husband who was out getting ice and stuff, to pick up a cake from Costco. I made some railway crossing signs, including one with flashing lights made from blinking Christmas pins. For games we did a bean bag toss of Toss the Coal into the Coal Car. His fourth birthday was a Pixar Cars party. My son "helped" me paint the decorations, a bunch of road signs, and we turned the living room and entry into Radiator Springs. I did a racetrack cake and put a diecast Lightning and Mater on top. For some reason I can't find a good picture of it, so I'll just describe it: it was a rectangular cake, 9x13 I think, that I frosted in green for grass, crushed up chocolate graham crackers for the race track, formed an oval track with the crumbs, and I made a banner that said "Happy Birthday" on the computer with a checkerboard border that I stuck into the cake with toothpicks. Lightning and Mater were under the banner. For games we did Pin the Bolt on Lightning and a bean bag toss. We also made foam cars from a kit I got at Michael's. All in all, I think our parties have been successful. I end up running around like a nut, but the kids seem to enjoy themselves. I think that the memories we make are better when we infuse the process with love.

1 comment:

Uncle Jim said...

I like your writing style and humor. A lot of info about energy savings. "Good job".see ya! ;)

jim j illinois :)