What is the deal with kid’s birthday parties these days?

How many times a day do you hear a mum complain about being tired? At least 70 times a day… and 65 of those times have come from my own mouth. Do you want to know why we’re so tired? Birthday parties. That’s it. Kid’s birthday parties are ruining mothers’ lives.

What’s that? But it’s only once a year? Well that’s nice if you only have one child and live on a rural station where they have no friends. But if your cherub has siblings and friends then your life as a mum is all about kids birthday parties.

Have we all gone fucking mad? I feel like we’ve lost our way somewhere. And I say ‘we’ because I’m guilty of riding the insane train to the party asylum. Oh yes, I am. Somewhere between bringing my new bub home and their second birthday, I was bitten by the Party something?? And now I’m throwing two a year and I’m exhausted.

Today’s parties are an entire industry of colour co-ordination and politically correct etiquette. They are the reason that Pinterest was invented. There are dedicated venues, hosts, themes, party favours and DIY bloggers all over the world have built their businesses on the back of mothers [me] desperately wanting to give their children the best party ever [or at least better than the one *David’s mum threw him]. Guests are sent personalised invitations which match the lolly bags that they are given as a thank you when they leave. Thank YOU for coming to my AWESOME party and having the time of your life. I really appreciate it.

My 8 year old has already started asking about his party next year. In August. Yes, he is the poster child of this new generation of monsters children who know nothing but themed birthday extravaganzas. He remembers each birthday party vividly, because they have all been so different from each other. I am EXHAUSTED people!

Do you remember YOUR birthday parties growing up? Chances are all of your memories are of the same party, because chances are they were all exactly.the.same. I remember some of mine, I think [a couple may have actually been my brother’s] mainly thanks to little square photos that have had the retro filter applied and stuck behind plastic in old-fashioned books we call ‘photo albums’.

All parties used to be held in backyards. And the backyards looked like backyards. Except, of course, for the balloons. Blown up with air from a mouth. There was no bunting or personalised printed signs or tissue paper pom poms or co-ordinating party ware. There was usually a table with Mum’s table cloth on it and more often than not the clothes line had donuts, tied up with string, hanging from it ready for one of the party games. [NB, this was genius as it doubled as snack-time as well]

mum central

And while we’re on the subject of games doubling up as snacks – let’s just take a moment to remember Bobbing for Apples. This game was nuts but we all played it. Because no-one cared about germs back then. And kids shoving their faces into a bucket of water repeatedly trying to catch an apple with tiny little teeth is so much fun! And safe.

There were no party-hosts, there were just parents. We played pass the parcel and there was only one gift at the end of all the wrappings and if the music stopped on the same kid twice then that kid unwrapped a layer twice. Because it was RANDOM people! There wasn’t anyone standing there, peeking to see if every kid had a go. Just like there was only one winner for musical chairs. One winner and a hell of a lot of competitive shoving to get on that last chair!

Party guests were usually comprised of cousins [remember cousins?], neighbours and a few of your besties from school. No one invited THE WHOLE CLASS. No-one thought to care if anyone felt excluded. It was just understood that friends invited friends. And if you didn’t have any friends, then you’d damn well better check yourself before you wreck yourself kid. We’d never heard the term PC before. True. There was no ‘political correctness’ OR ‘personal computer’. We were a PC-free generation.

kids birthday parties these days 2

We ate fairy bread on white bread spread with margarine and had frankfurter sausages, fish fingers, chocolate crackles and honey joys. We drank cordial and jelly was made in one big bowl and served up, with a spoon into little bowls. We didn’t have individual servings of things. No-one we knew had any nut allergies and we’d never even heard of gluten so how would we know if anyone was intolerant?

Oh and the birthday cake? Mum made that. Sometimes, if she had time, it would be something fancy from the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book but often it was just a round cake, decorated with sprinkles and candles.

And guess what? I LOVED my birthday parties. All of them. Or maybe I just had one really good one. I don’t know but I don’t have any BAD memories. I never felt disappointed. My birthday parties were the same as everyone else’s. No-one was one-upping anyone, that I could tell. We didn’t have any Joneses when I was kid so no-one had to keep up with them.

I know you’re reading this and thinking ‘well then WHY do you go to so much effort for your kids??’

I don’t know!

But my personalised bunting that matches the co-ordinating led lanterns has just arrived and I have to sign for it.


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Seventies Baby writes the things we think... but don't say out loud! A gloves-off perspective of womanhood, parenting and modern family life in a world obsessed with being perfect and politically correct. You can (and should!) follow her blog at www.seventiesbaby.blogspot.com or find her on Facebook.

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