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Birthday Party Blues

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Birthday Party BluesIt is a great relief these days when my children’s birthdays, a mere three weeks apart, arrive in the summer and all I have to do is take them shopping a couple of times, or pay for a treat with their friends. Not too long ago, when they were little children, their birthdays were occasions for me to be totally stressed out, and for my husband and me to be at each other’s throats.

My husband felt that the birthdays could be an occasion for us to return the hospitality of many couples and families who had entertained us, as well as a chance to call the children of some really important contacts of his. I felt that the birthdays should be an occasion for my children to call their friends, period. Long before the actual dates, we would begin our lively skirmishes about the guest list, finally compromising with great difficulty on the actual day. I had the upper hand in relative terms because I was doing all the actual work at home, but my husband was also making many trips in the car with soft drinks, cake, dropping child guests home etc., and he would demand that his guests be accommodated even at the last possible minute.

As if this was not enough, for a few years when my daughter was going to a particularly snobbish school, birthdays became fraught with tension – not just our daughter’s, but also her friends’. ‘What will be a good enough present?’ ‘What do we give as return gifts to kids who are so well off?’ ‘What if my child breaks something in that exquisite home?’ ‘Why am I letting my child be exposed to these snobbish people and values?’ – all these were the kinds of questions that arose in our minds. When our daughter moved to a sensible school, we were relieved to be back to a much more basic version of birthdays.

“I think birthday parties are one of the most difficult elements in bringing up children,” says Arpita, a fitness consultant. “From the decorations to the games, the menu to the return gifts, one is always left wondering – how much is too much? Are we spoiling our child by spending way too much money and time on what are, after all, momentary delights, or are we celebrating their birthdays to make them feel special and wanted?” her friend Shobha has a pretty common-sense view of the whole birthday party dilemma. “Birthday parties would not be a problem if we just treated them as a time for children to get together and have fun, or celebrate. Its because we adults are so conscious of providing a fitting ambience, fancy food, and all the rest of it, that parties become a big burden.” “But then, what do you say to children today who are so conscious of brand names and tags. If there is one parent who can afford to give every child a Bey Blade toy as a return gift, what do you say to your own child?” asks Arpita. “Even children’s consciousness of buying big brands comes only from the parents’ indulgence,” says Shobha. “Besides, birthday parties can be made really good fun for kids by spending more time with them, organizing games and activities. When parents have little time, they try to substitute it with costly gifts.”

In the metros, and even in some smaller towns, enterprising young men and women have set up small companies to take away the sting of organizing birthday parties. These ‘event managers’ provide everything – food, music, games and entertainment, decorations and return gifts for a fee. Parents who dread the arrival of B day can hand over responsibility to these professionals. But parents themselves seem to have mixed feelings, in spite of the difficulties of organizing birthday parties. “I don’t know – at the end of the day, I would like to feel that I played some part in Roshan’s birthday,” says Arpita. “Why turn even a child’s birthday party into a corporate event? What remains heartfelt about it, then?” asks Shobha.

Looks like parents are meant to stay with birthday party dilemmas at least for another generation.

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Responses to Birthday Party Blues

  1. 1 arpita

    gooooood very good while in school i would beg for extra goods can understand how easy it is to manage b`days

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