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Have Kids’ Birthday Parties Become Too Over-the-Top?

Kids’ birthday parties aren’t what they used to be. Is it time to revisit backyard parties with store-bought cupcakes?

Back in the ’80s when I was a goofy little kid, birthday parties were totally different than they are now. I can remember my mom allowing me to send an invite out to three or four of my closest friends for a Saturday afternoon of running around our backyard, munching down a couple boxes of lukewarm cheese pizzas, and getting blitzed on Surge soda. Dessert was a six-pack of store-bought cupcakes filled with copious amounts of high fructose corn syrup and frosting made with gallons of Yellow #5. These little parties lasted a couple hours; I scored a handful of new He-Man action figures, a stomachache, and a sugar crash, and life went back to normal by 3 p.m.

Fast-forward to 2018 with a couple kiddos of my own, and I’ve noticed that times have completely changed when it comes to celebrating the birthday of your spawn! Thanks to “Brag-book” and “Insta-gushing,” birthday parties have become a competitive battle between parents for who can outdo the others with the most excessive parties ever. Gone are the days of celebrating at your house with your besties—children’s birthday parties are now “experiences” where parents compete to show that they love their kids more than you love yours.

Invitations are handed out to no less than 20 children—printed on double-heavy textured, recycled cardstock with rounded corners. Each invite is professionally hand painted by a local artist and then covered in a high gloss UV coating to prevent fading before delivery. A hand tied ribbon adorns each envelope showcasing the invitees name, then the invite is attached to the foot of a white dove that delivers the announcement directly to your front door. Pinterest aficionados have a single tear rolling down their cheek right now. Simply beautiful.

Next comes the main event. Roll out the red carpet—it’s time to celebrate! A few experiences we’ve been invited to include a zip-lining extravaganza where children dress up as junior explorers and compete in a jungle themed adventure course, navigating their way through acres of exciting obstacles hoping to get to the end of the park where they can pet a real-life baby tiger. Or how about the time a birthday was held at one of those build-your-own-stuffed-animal places, where children on the invite list had a $100 credit to create their own stuffed friends. This one was made even more special when each child was treated to a fully-catered chocolate fountain snack bar at the end.

One of the most over-the-top birthdays I witnessed was when a family rented out an entire skate park and paid professional skateboarders to give lessons to all of the Tony Hawk wannabes. At the end of the party, each child received their own skateboard, helmet, and knee pads! Rad party, bro.

My anxiety is super high knowing that in the next couple of weeks, we’ll be approaching party time for our son. My wife and I are wondering if we should keep perpetuating these over-the-top parties or bring these spoiled kids back down to reality with a smaller, more intimate gathering.

I personally don’t see anything wrong with throwing out a Slip ‘N Slide, turning on the sprinklers in our own backyard, and ditching the designer birthday cake for a store-bought concoction paired with a couple bottles of Mountain Dew. I wonder what the other parents will think of our little blast-from-the-past bash. Why not relive the simplicity of the ’80s instead of pulling cash from the college funds to have Will Ferrell make a surprise appearance? Hypothetically though, just in case we cave to peer pressure and my son doesn’t go for this—does anyone know who I can contact for a military jet flyover?

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