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Is it weird to NOT "do" birthday parties for your school-age kids?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

I'm reading the current birthday party thread, and I'm wondering this:  is it considered weird or antisocial to *not* do a friend-party for one's childrens' birthdays?


My kids are 5 & 4:  kindergarten and pre-school.  Now that ds has entered kindy, the other moms are starting to do big classroom parties for their kids, inviting the whole class and making an enormous event for everyone, complete with destination and goody bags, etc.


To date, I've always had family parties for my kids:  just family/grandparents and a sheet cake with present-opening and such.  The kids have been thrilled with this, but now that we've discovered "invite 15 of your closest friend" parties, the kids are talking about "I'm going to invite EVERYONE to my party!" --- it's almost a social currency as far as who gets invited to what and all (eg., when a child is angry at someone, they'll say "I don't even want to invite them to my birthday party!").


I don't even want to go there.  Reading the current birthday party thread about who's invited and who's not and all of that worrying just makes me dread the birthdays.


I'm not all that comfortable in large group situations, particularly when I have to be the coordinator of everyone's happiness (!) and Fun Activity Time Lady for a group of school children and all.  The thought of putting on a birthday party for my kids' classmates and their parents makes my palms sweat thinking about it.


What are everyone's thoughts?  Would my children be the odd ones out if we just continued our family parties?


Also, would my children be hated if I allowed them to pick one child whose family celebrated with ours at our family party?  How would you feel if one of your children's classmates did that?



post #2 of 24

I really truly do not care what other parent's do for parties.  I don't care if we invite a kid and don't get invited to his/her party.


We didn't start kid parties until ds1 was 7.  Now we do a kid party and a family party.  The kid party is always somewhere else so that I don't have to come up with stuff to do; like a go-kart place, the park, etc. 

post #3 of 24


Originally Posted by hopefulfaith View Post

Also, would my children be hated if I allowed them to pick one child whose family celebrated with ours at our family party?  How would you feel if one of your children's classmates did that?



I think that if it was handled well, my child and I would never know. winky.gif


My kids are middle school aged, and it seems like there is a trend that goes along with age. With kids just starting school, many kids do have the whole classroom parties. Honestly, those are not my cup of tea.


Gradually, the kids figure which kids are actually their friends, and the parents burn out on having 30 kids, some of whom don't get along, in their homes, so the parties shrink and become more sane.  My kids have both hosted and attended parties that had 4 kids. It's a nice, sane size.


It's a tricky balance -- inviting over just the friends without hurting feelings. It can be done.


I think the real problem comes in when  one child thinks of another child as a good friend, and the other child doesn't feel the same way. The first child finds out where they stand and feelings can get hurt.

post #4 of 24
I think throwing a party (or paying for it to be held somewhere) is a PITA but for my son anyway (4k almost 5) it's a really exciting thing. He had his first one last year when he turned 4.

I don't think it's weird not to do bday parties but maybe just a little disappointing for the kids? I have a summer bday and I hated how my parties were always so small. It's just nice to have a birthday party, I think. What kid doesn't love a party?
post #5 of 24

I haven't read the other thread.  I get your reticence. I didn't grow up with big birthday party productions.  Birthdays were with family.  So when my first child got school aged this birthday party with classmates expectation was a surprise and just caused a lot of anxiety for me. 


1) I never felt the obligation to invite a huge number of kids. Certainly not the whole class.  One rule says invite as many kids as your child's age. Your child turns seven, invite seven kids.  I say invite as many as you are comfortable with. 


2) You might only be seeing the kids/moms who are having the big parties.  You aren't seeing the kids/moms who are having smaller, simpler parties.


3) Depending on the 'destination', the party package can be a good solution. You don't have to turn your house into Party Central. You don't have to provide game ideas.  Just fork over $100 and they bowl or skate for 2 hours and eat pizza and cake.


4) Party planning and hosting gets easier. 


In kindergarten I don't think your child would be hated. I think they're not all that aware yet. Maybe I'm naive. 

post #6 of 24

I'm sure a lot of people will think it's weird, while a lot of people will totally understand (and maybe even be envious that you had the guts/conviction to go against convention an do what's best for YOUR family).  I'm definitely "weird" by many people's standards - I don't eat meat or dairy, I had a homebirth, we co-sleep, etc, but I feel strongly that those choices are right for me and my family.  So even though ds will miss out on Happy Meals, Sesame Street, and other traditional childhood staples, I rest easy knowing that I'm choosing what works for us. Ds is only 6 months, so parties haven't been an issue for us yet, but dh and I have already discussed having small birthday parties and asking guests to not bring gifts.  I, like you, get dizzy just thinking about throwing some extravaganza with 30 6 year olds, so we'll probably stick to (maybe) a few friends and immediate family. I have no doubt many people will frown on that, especially the no gift part, but it means a lot to us so we'll do it anyway.   


That's not to say that I don't get uncomfortable going against the grain, because I do, but just that I really make an effort to stay true to my instincts and do what feels right despite the discomfort.


post #7 of 24

Growing up there were six of us, so Mum sensibly decided not to host six big expensive all-your-friends-at-school parties every year. For some reason she settled on "everyone gets a big party at ages 6 and 13". Well, not big big, but a "proper" party with school friends, hats, games and so on - you know? Once we were older than 13, we were allowed to invite one friend over for a sleepover or to join us on a family outing, or whatever.


It wasn't a huge deal. I still got invited to other people's birthday parties, so I can only assume they didn't resent me for not reciprocating every year. On the non-big-party years we still had a cake and presents with the family... and were allowed to pick a box of fancy cereal, and got to have school lunch one day that week, all of which was terribly exciting!


I'm not sure what we'll do with DD (although we plan to homeschool, so the classmates thing should be less of an issue!). She's 3 now and so far we've given her a party every year - I kinda like making a big deal out of birthdays! But the parties have been very easy. Invite friends and family to the local botanical gardens; everyone brings a plate of food; we eat, the adults chat, the kids run around, no muss no fuss. I'd quite happily keep doing that year after year. :p This year we went to the local arboretum instead - a fantastic place with chickens roaming around everywhere - and that was particularly fun.

post #8 of 24

OK I read the other thread.


Also, would my children be hated if I allowed them to pick one child whose family celebrated with ours at our family party?  How would you feel if one of your children's classmates did that?


I can only answer for myself, and I wouldn't hate you in the least.  I'd immediately 'get it', that you the parent have chosen to go small scale and keep it simple, and that your child has the right to invite the person they're closest to. 


Is it considered weird or antisocial to not do a friend-party for one's childrens' birthdays? Not to me, it isn't.  It isn't weird.  However, the friend-party has become the social norm and I'd say that for your child's sake, if you think your child would enjoy it, you should host a friend-party a couple of times in his childhood. 


If you keep it simple and don't spend beyond your means and don't DO more than you can handle then you might find it's kind of fun. It makes some pleasant memories.



Edited to add, I like how Smokering's mum did it.  That sounds about right. 


And we do the fancy box of cereal for the birthday, too!  LOL!  I don't buy sugar-coated sugar bombs with the cartoon characters ever.  Except for birthdays.  This year I included DH in the tradition! He loved it. He chose Kellogg's Corn Pops.

post #9 of 24

We did it doe the odd birthday years for a couple years but I have a January, weird time to get out invitations - before holiday break is too early and after is too late, a June, two weeks after school is over so a lot of people are already gone, and a September, about 3 weeks into school and still too early to really not invite the whole class and I'm just not into it.  So - when my oldest was about 13 it started to just be that we invite 1 or 2 friends to come to dinner and sleep over..... 

post #10 of 24
I've found that attending the class parties has been a great way to meet some of the parents and families. Over the years, I've become good friends with several of the school moms.
I also agree with the pp, that as the kids age the "whole class" party becomes a rarity. My dd, 7, has had less than 5 guests at her last couple of parties.
And no one at our school has ever been judged for not hosting big birthday parties. Go with what you're comfortable with! Although, I have definitely stepped outside of my comfort zone for a couple of birthday parties, at my kids request. The things we do for our los! lol
post #11 of 24

Yeah, bday parties can be a minefield but I wouldn't worry too much about it if I were you.


If there are enough many kids in your children's classes - no one will keep track of who has a bday party or not.  Just do what you're comfortable with.

post #12 of 24

Another thing that I've found with my kids (who now 14 and about to turn 13) is that what sounds fun to each child is very different, and what sounds fun different years is different. One of my DDs is very quiet, and so far her very favorite party was to invite her sister and 2 other girls to go to her favorite restaurant and then to a place where you paint your own pottery. It was lovely. For my other DD, inviting everyone she likes (and making a note on the invite that sibs are welcome) and having a jumpy castle in the backyard has been the best party so far. It was blast.


I kinda think when we parent the child we actually have at the stage they are currently in, it's easier and more clear than attempting to figure out The One Right Way To Do Things.

post #13 of 24

We have always done friend-parties because 1) we were a military family and didn't live near any family, so if we didn't invite friends over there would be no party to speak of, and 2) I have baggage from my own lack of parties as a child. I think I had a couple of family-parties when I was very small.


My children and I have now lived in the same state for six years (a record!) but we still have friend-parties because we settled at our last duty station, which still isn't near any family. (By the time my oldest was 12, we'd relocated six times.)


However, I don't think that people who DON'T do friend-parties are weird or antisocial, and I certainly don't keep score.

post #14 of 24

Personally the idea of hosting a huge friends party gives me total anxiety. I have no desire to do that. So far we haven't had any issues, but DS is not yet 4. So, we shall see what happens as he gets older, but my plan is to have maybe 1 or 2 close friends, if that. We have always done family parties and he is super excited over it at this point in his life.


When I was growing up, I had only one big party with friends, when I turned 15, and had 10 girlfriends sleep over. It was alot of fun in a way, and in another way I realized I never wanted to do that again. All my other birthday parties were family parties and I thoroughly enjoyed them, although even back then many of my friends had big friend parties every year.


I think just because it has become the social norm doesn't mean you have to do it. I know we have already gotten some judgement from others who don't get why we don't have big friend parties, but I just don't think it's necessary, and I also think that teaching your kids that things like parties can be simple and still be awesome is a great thing. There is no need to spend hundreds (or gosh thousands..) on a birthday party for your child to have a great time.

post #15 of 24

I really think that 99 percent of people really don't care what you do (or don't do) for your kid's birthday.  Really.


Most of the problems come from graceless exclusion or from critical people who frankly would have just found something else about you they don't like anyway!


As long as your preference for no-parties or small parties doesn't mean that you are looking down your nose at all the Stupid People Who Choose Differently From You, then it's all good.


My kids love a good class party now and then.  The thought of that many gifts (esp. since I have twins in addition to a singleton) gives me the willies.  So once every couple/several years I allow them to have a class party with the stipulation that it's a charity party.  (yes, you will ahve some people who whine and fuss about how crass that is too).  Last time my boys and their guests raised over 100 pounds of food for the local food bank to kick off their Summer Without Hunger food drive, and all the kids were super excited about that, my daughter that year raised $100 and a bunch of donations for our local pet shelter and the kids were all super excited about *that*.  But the following year (this year) she just had 2 friends over for a movie and a sleepover, and my boys are going to have a small home party.


You're not stuck "doing" just one way of things.  I find the stupid and cheerful approach works wonders; I don't obsess about people tsking behind my back at my lack of gigantic birthday parties (or the fact that sometimes we have them!), once I've made my decision I'm cheerful and stupid-by-choice to other people's naysaying.  It's true (at least in my experience) that as the kids age gigantic birthday parties cease to be as common.  (Let's face it, most people are less intimidated and worried about entertainment/whether someone is going to barf/pee/poop on your carpet/cleaning up the dump-and-run whirlwind with 5 10 year olds than a bunch of toddlers, so there's not as much assumed need to have a party somewhere else.)


Yes, some people will think you're weird/bad/immoral for having a large/small party at home/another location.  People may talk about people like that disparaging on a message board somewhere even!  But who cares?  It's your family, and your kids' party, you guys do what works best for you.  :)

post #16 of 24
Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post

I really think that 99 percent of people really don't care what you do (or don't do) for your kid's birthday.  Really.


Most of the problems come from graceless exclusion or from critical people who frankly would have just found something else about you they don't like anyway!


This is exactly what I was going to say.  There are no rules about how to celebrate anything!  Do what you want.  I truly don't think the other kids think about it at all.  My dd would say all year "I want to invite So and So to my party." but she's never had a friends-type party.  It's just her way of saying she really likes that person.  I know she's been excluded from many kindy parties but she doesn't.

post #17 of 24

I think it's fine to celebrate however you wish. We generally just have family parties, although last year DS had a friend party and invited 6 kids (3 family friends, 2 from the neighborhood, and 1 from his class). I told him not to discuss the party at school or when playing in the neighborhood with kids who weren't invited, which was as far as I think I'm obligated to go in protecting other kids' feelings. If other families somehow found out about it (maybe by the invitees talking about it) and chose to get upset, that's not something I can control, and I'm not interested in hosting massive parties just to appease them. That's for them to navigate with their child, the way I've navigated it with my own child when he hasn't been invited. 


Heck, just a few minutes ago on the way home from school our little carpool friend mentioned that she went to our neighbor's party, which we weren't invited to, and although we all play together it didn't really cross my mind to think anything of it except that I'd been reading these birthday threads today. The birthday kid invited who he wanted to, for whatever reason, and that's fine. Really. 

post #18 of 24

In the better part of two decades I have never not once thrown the sort of party you described. I prefer to keep it low key and don't really believe in big parties for anyone's birthday. 

post #19 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks, all.  I appreciate the responses.  I particularly like the Pick A Forbidden Cereal as a birthday treat.  ;)  Also smokering's mom on the whole two-ages of parties thing - that's genius.


I haven't ruled out birthday parties, but my inclination is to keep them small and manageable.  When I read Tigerchild's first few lines, I sort of smiled sheepishly and reminded myself that she is totally right, of course.  Most people probably don't care a bit.


Thanks for the insight.


post #20 of 24

We have never done a kid party for our children. We do a family party and included in that is our very close friends and their kids if they have any. I personally think its crazy how much money some parents spend on kids parties. But that is just my opinion :)

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