Children’s birthday parties have turned into social events. When I was growing up, a few gifts, cake with candles, family or a few friends was about all anybody ever got. We were happy with that.
Times have certainly changed.
Children’s birthday parties have gotten completely out of hand. When 1-year-olds have inflatables, pony rides and 50 guests, I think it’s safe to say that all of the hubbub is not for the sake of the child, but for the adults trying to make up for something they didn’t get in their own childhood, or competing with other parents.
I’ve been to both of my grandchildren’s birthday parties in the last month. I’m glad to say they were of the more traditional sort. Sandwiches, chips, cake with candles, presents and games set up in the backyard with family in attendance was the theme for both and they were as happy as little kids could be.
I think we, as a society, are making a huge mistake to “overdo” everything. Kids don’t care about having the biggest, most impressive get-togethers. They respond to love, laughter, good food, a few special presents and loved ones close by.
Kids have no concept of the expense of anything. If you have a small party and tell them it’s special, then it is. If you tell them what all someone else had and what they are not going to get to have, then they will be disappointed.
Adults, often without realizing it, project their own needs or desires onto small children and use them as an opportunity to get what they want or what they think the child should want. I can’t help wondering when things are overdone at very early ages, what is going to be left as the child gets older? Will parties and gifts have to get bigger and more expensive every year?
For two children with a truck load of toys, my grandchildren already had enough to play with. They were both excited about their new presents, but instead of letting them have everything all at once after it was opened, my son and his wife are introducing a new toy from the party each day. This makes each gift more memorable and more enjoyable. Children are overwhelmed with too many choices. They tend to run from one thing to the other and back again when they are surrounded by a pile of new things.
Usually, the gift that a child likes best is not the one we might anticipate. My granddaughter’s favorite thing was a car that blew soap bubbles out the front. My grandson is crazy about a miniature car race track. The cost of an item has nothing to do with what will capture the imagination of a child. Sometimes children are more interested in the box than the item that came inside.
Tonight when my grandson was saying his prayers, he told me he couldn’t pray unless his mom and dad were there to tell him the words they knew he should say. I told him that God hears every word every time he prays. When he didn’t respond immediately, I thought he either didn’t understand, or rejected my simple approach to prayer.
A couple of minutes later, snuggled under the cover and down for the night, he looked up at the ceiling and said it best, “Thank you, God, for a great day!”
At 4 years old, I think he’s on the right track!
Reach Judith Victoria Hensley at [email protected] or on Facebook. Check out her blog: One Step Beyond the Door.