Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Are Birthday Parties Getting Out Of Hand?

I've thrown some pretty awesome birthday parties in my day. The most over-the-top one was for my oldest son when he was six. The theme was "Spy Academy." I spent two months, yes, TWO months working on it. The kids came in and were promptly photographed and fingerprinted. Spy Academy ID cards were quickly printed out and laminated.

The first course in the academy was disguises. They were led to four huge trunks packed with costumes and accessories. After they were properly disguised, they separated into two teams and went through the woods using GPS handhelds (with the help of two spy instructors), looking for way points where they were given scrambled "clues" to find the location of the stolen birthday cake. After the completion of that "course" they came in and created a custom spy gadget. Each spy kid got a small cereal box covered in foil and got to choose from a slew of craft supplies to "decorate" their gadget. Then there was a showing of the spy kids movie followed by a huge sleepover. The party favors? Each kid went home with a plastic spy briefcase with their spy academy certificate, spy i.d., handcuffs, spy sunglasses, and a bunch of other spy-related stuff. The invitation? A cassette tape with the party info on it that would "self destruct" in ten seconds, delivered in a confidential envelope.

It was creative and fun, yet very exhausting. I started to think, "Do my kids even enjoy these crazy themed parties"? Can we tone the parties down a bit and still make it a fun experience for everyone? And who invented the idea of these outlandish party favor bags, anyway? I certainly don't remember getting them as a kid.

Luckily, as my kids have gotten older, we've gotten away from the uber-theme parties and have had good old-fashioned soccer games in the park or sleepovers with just a few friends in the back yard.

At least I thought that was the trend.

Until my seven-year-old wanted to have a "Indiana Jones party with an obstacle course in the back yard where we could launch a giant ball at the guests as they leap off the hay bales....and can we do a treasure hunt in the woods with GPS devices like Tommy did when he was seven? Oh, and Mom, let's put fake snakes in the party favor bags, with gold coins, an Indy hat, a whip.....OOOOOH! Let's put the Indiana Jones DVD set in each party bag! And we can dig holes in the back yard and bury crystal skulls! And we can fill the front yard with sand with a sign that says "Dig Site" and hide skeleton bones in it! And we can decorate the inside of the house with spider webs and snakes to make it look like a cave and hide the holy grail in it! And so on.

Calgon, take me away........
Note to husband: for my 50th birthday, I want Cirque du Soleil to come to our house and put on a custom "clown school" for all 500 party guests. Or we could just make a batch of chili and watch "E.T." with the boys. I think I'll go with the latter.

16 comments:

Miss Julie said...

omg, I wish I was a 7 year old boy at your house! I sure hope you're documenting these parties in a lovely, handmade, custom scrapbook, so when you're old you'll have the proof that you are a fantastic mom, and therefore they should visit you in the nursing home, carrying flowers and chocolate and beautifully dressed grandchildren.

Lori King said...

Well I have lovely, custom scrapbook supplies in the garage collecting dust and cobwebs along with the lovely, custom handmade card supplies and lovely card stamping supplies. Does it count to have the supplies and not want to do anything with them?

That sounds like a great school auction item - take all my supplies and photos and turn them into an album!

ThriftyDecorChick said...

Ha! You are so funny! I have already started planning my son's party and he will be TWO!! That's it!! I used to make so. much. fun. of the moms that I have turned into. So happy you found my blog, hope you enjoy it!

Kathleen DeMarco said...

My son just returned home from the above referenced Indian Jones themed birthday party. It was, indeed, the most awesome party my son, or anybody else in the family, had ever attended. The hostess made the entire event seem effortless. I think I finally understand why somebody puts all this effort into a birthday party: it's super fun!

Jennie said...

Dude. A spy-themed party? That is so cool. We have summer birthdays and a pool, so it is always just the swim party. Of course, for my 13 year old, we have a traditional burning of school work in the fire pit every year. All the guests give a little speech about why they are glad the school year is over.

BPOTW said...

Oh wow, will you host my next birthday party? I swear I won't ask for too much!?!

I used to go overboard planning my first daughter's parties. It was so fun to do. That is until my second came along. My older daughter's fifth birthday party had three invitees (only two showed up) and a pin the tail on Mater game....with a WalMart cake. Before her baby sister came along I would have balked at that! Now I'm happy to just remember!

Thanks for submitting your post to BPOTW!

Louise said...

We live in northern Italy, and the art of the birthday party as you guys practice it hasn't reached these parts yet. Today my No. 1 son is 4. On Thursday, I brought cake and drinks to his kindergarten, and each of his classmates made a picture that included him. They were strung together and put in a makeshift envelope. This was the best birthday present (for me, for him it was the plastic sword and helmet). Today, we'll go swimming and have a birthday tea en famille with his Oma, who has arrived from Germany. On one hand, I feel terrible I'm not a super-Mama and such an energetic hostess as you. On the other, I see his shining face alight with the glow of birthday candles and know that he's as happy as he can be. And that's enough for me. For now.

greedygrace said...

How true! My son's first b-day and my daughter's 3 rd b-day are two weeks apart in March adn I am already starting to plan a double party for them!

I have a problem. I need help!

Michelle said...

Oh I'm so with you. We make some sort of a craft or treat and that and that alone is the favor. I don't want more STUFF and what kid needs it?

But ummmm if you get that Cirque party, will you invite me pretty please? :)

Lisa @ Serahs said...

Oh WOW! How cool?! Are you not the coolest mom on the block?! I think you've just found yourself a second job because I'm hiring you to throw my next party!

Brenda Jean said...

I've done a Sponge Bob party and a Harry Potter party when the boys were younger, but our problem is that family is spread all over so we end up having like 3 birthday parties! Even the kids get bithday partied out:)

You are a COOL mom!

Joy in the Burbs... said...

My husband can't get the whole party favor bag thing. He's like you mean we invite them and feed them and do all this fun party stuff with them and that still isn't enough we have to give them a bag full of more stuff to go home with. He keeps reminding me when he was a kid it was just him and his cousins and a homemade cake and look how he turned out. Anyway, the spy party sounds like it was a blast and very creative. They are only young once. Enjoy it.

Mindy said...

WOW that was some party! I'm all for the bringing in sand and making a dig site in your front yard =) LOL I LOVE the imagination that kids have. Everything is so easy, right!?

Oh2122 said...

Yes, way out of control - says the woman who did this for a one year old:

http://oh2122.blogspot.com/2008/10/frosted-friday-re-post.html

But in my defense, the cake was it! I love creating wonderful things that he will remember when he's older.

A spy party makes you cool mom of the year!

Ashley. Unscripted... said...

LOVE the spy party theme. That's fabulous.

And yeah, I can totally see how easy it is to go overboard and I only have a two year old.

Aly @ Lip Zip said...

Visiting via BPOTW...

I'm currently living in the party overboard mindset. My son will be 2 in about 3 weeks. I've been planning a party for just 4 people (3 grandparents and one aunt) and I've been going crazy with getting party supplies, a cake pan, mementos for party favors. I can't imagine how nutso I'm going to get when my child is actually asking for a party.

Somebody stop me!!