Are kids birthday parties really necessary?

fairy partyWith three kids aged 9, 7 and 5, it seems every second weekend we are traipsing off to another birthday party and singing happy birthday to a child we hardly know.

It makes me wonder if there is any value in going to these parties and seemingly wasting a weekend day on celebrating yet another birthday of an unknown child. My youngest has been to 12 parties in the last 4 months.

I had parties for my kids when they were small, for my first two children up until the age of 6 and my youngest has never had a birthday party. We have moved a lot in her life and her birthday is in June when it is cold and rainy and kind of sneaks up on us.

One of the most memorable birthday parties was for my son’s 5th birthday. We were living in America and we had a Lego party at our house. I had invited his whole preschool class and had it on a Friday so none of the siblings came – but alas, parents pulled their kids out school and we ended up with 28 kids (15 invited). It was a blast… we had to do an extra trip to Sub Way to get another plate of sandwiches but it was really fun. I had 4 different areas set up, one with Lego, one face painting, one outdoors on the playset in our yard and one craft table. The kids milled between each one.

I started out thinking it was one of the most important things to do – celebrate a birthday party for my kids with their friends and in the last few years, as the spate of birthday parties grew and the competition got heavier, I have been steering my kids away from hosting a party and rather getting a few friends over after school, going to their favourite place for dinner and then dropping the kids home.

Today, I went to another party for a 5-year-old. She is in my daughter’s preschool class, but I really don’t know her or think I have ever said more that a cheery hello to her mum. It was a Fairy Popolina party – who is apparently THE 5-year-old birthday party entertainer in our area for girls. She was a pretty cool fairy I must say, and she even spoke in character to the adults. She captivated the kids for a whole 2 hours.

And here is my epiphany…. For a whole hour and a half, I sat and spoke to a mum who has a 5 and 2-year-old. We talked about her family, my family and over that hour and half we unpacked her entire life story – even that her mother in law had turned lesbian after 8 kids and her parents wished they had valued education more with their kids then they did.

I knew she has lived in New York, London, how she met her husband and the particular quirks of each of her kids. She teared up when I told her I was a parent coach and I help mums move out of the ‘everyday parenting’ and see the ‘big picture’ of what it means to have clarity about instilling the right values, beliefs and habits in children before 12 years of age.

It was when she thought of her first son going to school next year that hurt the most. She was concerned that he is such a loving, soft boy and he will loose that edge when he goes to big school. She wanted to preserve him as her boy and keep external factors at bay.

I felt alive when I spoke to her and we were able to finish an entire conversation with our children happily being entertained by Fairy Popolina.

This is the value of a birthday party – creating community. Meeting other mums who you would not otherwise have 1 and a half hours to sit down and talk to and evaluate life from their perspective.

She is a great mum and her kids were beautiful, but she had been up all night with her 2-year-old, her baby girl didn’t eat much because of reflux troubles and in the time we talked – those troubles pailed into insignificance. She was her again. The bubble burst when one of our children needed the toilet and so the ‘meeting’ ended.

In the remaining time of Fairy Popolina, I spoke to a mum I knew last year because our kids were at preschool together. Her boy now goes to big school. I asked how he was going and she said she was so proud of her boy because his transition had been so smooth, despite her having her third baby the week he started school.

Another mum was waiting for a phonecall from the ambulance as her own mum was being airlifted to hospital after having a stroke.

And yet another couple I spoke to asked what it was like having three kids because they only have two but have just recently had an urge to have three.

In that short 2 hours of Fairy Popolina and the birthday party, I spoke to four mums about the struggles and joys of raising the next generation of children.

I am now convinced of the value – these parties bring together mums to talk – it is kind of like a parent cocktail party but better because you really get to meet the mums and talk to them in a relaxed atmosphere and actually finish a conversation you started, without champagne and pretense.

So stay tuned, the next birthday in our house is in October and there will be a party!

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About Anna Partridge

me and maddieAnna Partridge is a writer, parent educator, school teacher and mother of three young children aged 9, 7 and 5. She is also founder of and runs parenting workshops about ‘Raising Confident and Resilient Kids’. Through her work, she is building a community of like-minded mothers who share the inspiration and challenges of raising the next generation. If you are a mum and need to find your ‘big picture’ of parenting or turn a frantic family into a fun family, click here to speak with Anna.

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