My Beef with Birthday Parties

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My son just turned one. I have no clue where his past year went, but he’s officially completed his first trip around the sun whether I like it or not.

With the ‘1st birthday’ milestone tends to come 1st birthday parties. There was never really a doubt or a thought given as to whether or not we would have a party celebrating but I must say there were definitely some lessons learned from the event and planning.

The biggest lesson learned from everything was:

I’m not doing this for every birthday.

For Bradley’s party we rented out a park pavilion for the day and invited close friends and family (extended out to his great-grandparents, etc). We chose to go out that far since Bradley is the first grandchild on either my or my husband’s side so he is very loved by many people – and maybe a tad bit spoiled 😉

We catered sandwich platters from our local grocery store and I made all of the sides as well as the cupcakes. We expected at MOST 60 people.

At the end of the day we spent hundreds of dollars on the party; not including the gifts we got for him ourselves or the zoo trip we did on his actual birthday during the week. After factoring it all together we dropped somewhere around $1000 in one weekend. That’s about what we spend during Christmas time.

I’m not saying that I regret throwing the party or spending the money. After all, the first birthday is a big deal. I love all of the pictures we were able to get and although he won’t remember the day, he will have it all to look back at one day. Not to mention all of the developmental toys he now has to keep him busy!

That being said, I’m still not going to do this again for a few years. Or at least until the next baby’s first birthday.

Throwing a big birthday party every year for every child (when we have more) will easily add up to thousands of dollars each year. Thousands of dollars that could be used improving their lives for the other 364 days of the year instead of just that one.

As much as I believe my child (one day children) deserve the world and all the celebrations we can give them, I don’t want them to grow up believing that their happiness can only be brought on by a giant mountain of presents. That the amount in which we love them is somehow tied to how large of a party they will receive on their birthday.

I also don’t want to set forth the expectation that every year for each child’s birthday there will be a huge celebration. Fact of the matter is, life is full of unexpected occurrences and that is something we must all come to learn. I don’t want them to think that if we come across a hard time their lack of a party again, reflects on their worth and how much we value them.


While I have no intentions of stressing out over huge unnecessary birthday parties; I also have no intentions of brushing their special days under the rug either. Like I’ve said, I only have one son at this point in time, but something tells me that each one of my future children will mean everything to me and by no means will I let the days they came into the world go unnoticed.

So my game plan for future birthdays is to do something fun and out of the ordinary to make them still feel special and build memories as a family. I want my kids to grow up valuing the memories and time together as a family rather than the things we are able to buy them.

Things like trips to the zoo, going to the beach or boating. Currently we live near a 6-Flags amusement park so that could be an option once they’re older. Something as simple as going to a buffet for dinner could be the coolest thing for them. The only expectations they have are the ones we set them up to have.

I’m also not opposed to smaller birthday parties when they reach grade school level either. I guess my biggest argument is to find balance in the celebrations and to realize that even something as simple as a birthday party can mold a child’s outlook on life and/or self worth. As a society we place a heavy value on birthdays accompanied by exaggerated and unrealistic parties (thank you MTV). Every parent has the right to celebrate their child’s birthday as large or as small as they see fit. I also believe no parent should feel like they have done a poor job because they don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on each child for each birthday. Determine what you’re values are, what matters more to you and what values you want to instill in your children.

* * *

As I’m writing this it’s dawned on me that a large reason his first birthday was so big, was because of other people’s expectations. That if we invited one person, but not another they would be upset. That if we kept the celebration TOO small (inviting one less generation of family members) then others would feel we didn’t make a big enough deal of the day.

I feel like that must be something a lot of parents come to face. More outside pressure to live and raise your children a certain way. So learn from my mistake. Throw (or don’t throw) the party that you want. As big or as small as you want. Invite who you want and don’t invite those who you don’t want there. You’re the parent. That is your child and you have certain ideals and behaviors to teach them.

Again, I have no regrets on his party or the money we spent. We all had a wonderful time. But I’ve had an eye opening experience to see how we would have to live long term to do this for every child’s birthday every year. In order to re-align into the sort of life and outlook I want them to have as they grow, future celebrations will need to be planned a little differently.

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I found your blog via Pinterest. I just wanted to share my experience. I have 4 kids (ages 6, 5, 2.5 and 2 months). My first 2 are 15 months apart and I threw large elaborate Pintetest worthy birthdays for them every year. I loved doing it and we had the fimances so it wasn’t an issue. But then I realized that we want a large family so throwing 5 or 6 of these a year is probably ridiculous and what message was I sending about their birthday? I don’t want them growing up thinking everyone should stop their lives… Read more »