Clearly the birthday stakes are rising. Megan had her first party when she was three. It consisted of five friends and a plain pizza. I didn’t even know then that party favors were expected. I discouraged gifts but suggested that, if they must, people could give art supplies to go with the easel Megan was getting from us. It hasn’t been so simple since. Only two years later, when Megan asked for a piñata and I said we could make one, she responded with a roll of her eyes: “Mom, people don’t make piñatas, they order piñatas.”
Well, we make piñatas. That’s the one birthday extravagance I don’t mind because it becomes a creative family collaboration. So far, our creations have included a pirate, a spider (both for Luke, of course), a giant daisy (the most involved), and the planet Mars, which was harder than you’d think because most balloons are not round. Aside from the piñata, I still try to keep it simple and discourage too many toys, though that has gotten increasingly difficult.
Partly it’s a function of having too many friends to invite. Although we tried the “one guest for every year you’ve been alive” guideline, that always threatened to leave one kid out. Last year was particularly dicey since Megan was in her second year of a split ½ class. That meant she had friends in 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade, not counting her out of school friends. A complicated female friendship drama ensued which resulted in some last minute invitations and some bruised feelings. I vowed that in the future we would just invite one whole class, even though our small house is not ideal for a large group of kids in December. (Luke’s spring birthday is easier.)
This year Megan is in the first year of a split ¾ class, so she still has second grade friends in the ½, third grade friends from both the 3 and the ¾, and fourth grade friends who were in second grade with her when she was a first grader in the ½. According to the initial list she drew up this morning, this year’s party could include girls from all four classes, with one glaring omission of a kid whose feelings will be hurt if she’s not invited but who Megan doesn’t particularly feel like inviting. This is going to be complicated before we even get to the issue of skating, which sounds expensive to me. Shuttling kids half an hour, from the skating rink to our house so they can act out The Princess Diaries sounds ridiculous. Megan suggested we rent a van.
In the end, I’m sure Tom and I will rule out anything expensive or complicated, reminding the children that when we were children, neither of us ever even had a birthday party, let alone one every year. Still, our lives are not their frame of reference. They’re comparing themselves to kids they know, some of whom have elaborate birthday parties, and some who don’t. Part of me thinks it’s good that my daughter knows how to dream big and deliver her plans with confidence. I just don’t want to organize or pay for them.