The Politics of Kindergarten Birthday Parties
My children are all born in the latter half of the year - late August, late September and late November (yes, we obviously like to party in the festive season) and what to do for their birthdays always causes headaches, considering we have a cast of thousands in the family and friends department. Not to mention that the first one always falls around Father's Day, the second one falls soon after and the third is close to the Christmas party season.
But nothing beats the headache of a kindergarten birthday
extravaganza party. Happy and joyful are those that home school or who have the good fortune of having a child born in January or February (before the start of the school calendar). I'm sure it won't be like this next year or the year after...it may not be a problem again until we hit say 18th or 21st birthdays...but this year it is a big deal. When I say 'big deal', I mean that in the eyes of the under 6's crowd, it's right up there with the Cars 2 premiere and what's on special at the canteen. As soon as tears had subsided in the first term, the whole grade was discussing birthday parties - kids were being invited to birthday parties 6 months in advance and parents were being harassed to provide maps to the party venue. I kid you not. It was kind of cute and amusing until each of us in turn realised that we would all have to partake! Opting out of a birthday party with friends is not an option when you have your little one looking up at you saying "pleeeease mum"...
So with Spring and birthday season fast approaching for me, I've decided to provide you with a look inside my head as I consider the politics of kindergarten birthday parties...
Who to invite: This is the biggest issue of all. Might seem simple, but it's not. God love them but kindys consider every person in the school their friend...until tomorrow when they play with Jack or Jane and suddenly, Jack or Jane are their friend and nobody else. Oh, it's so complicated! The earlier in the year it is, the harder it is to decide who is a "friend", which might actually be a good thing for the parent trying to cull numbers. Perhaps a Facebook for each of them would be a good idea...then again, that could lead to a guest list of 347 people.
So who scores an invite? The children your child mentions more than once? Four to six year olds have been known to be fickle in the friends department. How does one know who they are close to? Asking the teacher isn't really an option...they can't keep tabs on the social life of everyone in the class.
What about the children who have given your child an invitation to their own parties? Hmmm, seems like a given but what if one of those children has a reputation as a bit of a bully and is not the kind of child you want your son or daughter to develop a friendship with?
What about the children of parents that you 'socialise' with every morning and afternoon on the school playground? There's no pick-up or drop-off bay at our school so except for those taking the bus, that's a lot of parents. And what if your child doesn't really play with your friend's child? Then what? Will offence be taken if a particular child is left off the guest list? Whose birthday party is this anyway?
Does one invite the whole class? What about the childrens' feelings? When invites are being handed out, how do you explain to a little one that they didn't quite make the cut?
You can see why the guest list for a kindergarten birthday party is worse than that for a royal wedding! My head is exploding at the thought. The easiest thing to do would be to just let the birthday child decide who they feel like inviting on the day of the party...but that ain't going to happen! Wouldn't it be wonderful if that could be the case? Bet a few adults would like to invite in that style too :)
Location/Venue: This is the other biggie in the politics of kindergarten birthday parties and is very much influenced by the 'guest list'. I don't recall having too many parties with school friends when I was very young, but if I did they were invariably at home. The good old backyard. It has become so overlooked that it might actually come back into vogue as a hip party venue. I would definitely go this option if it wasn't for the fact that my backyard is simply incapable of catering for a large mass of children, their parents and possibly the odd sibling. This is where people with acres have an advantage over the rest of us. That is, if they dare to chance the crowd and its aftermath (which can be pretty brutal).
So where to hold the much anticipated birthday party? Firstly, it has to be a space big enough to cater for your numbers (even McDonalds' party rooms and play areas vary greatly from suburb to suburb), secondly, it has to be within a couple of suburbs of the school (to avoid the wrath of parents having to trudge half way across town on a weekend when all they want to do is sleep in), thirdly, it has to be available (children's party venues are in high demand and apparently have to be booked months in advance...it might actually be easier to book a wedding venue in Sydney) and last but not least, you have to be able to afford it (and can I just say that if you think the word "wedding" is an invitation to rob you blind, you ain't seen the price of some of these kids venues and what you get for your money)! Oh, and if it's an outdoor area you also have to worry about the possibility of rain....
My frown lines are deepening just sitting here thinking about it all! In a perfect world, I would have a huge park with a huge covered area (fenced off for the children's protection), plenty of play equipment, wide open spaces and zero entry fee :) Yeah, I know I'm dreaming.
Gifts: For the parent who has a child attending the big bash, the question is what in the hell do you buy a child you don't know? And chances are your own child won't be able to provide much help in that department either. Maybe some people just go and pluck whatever off the shelf...I can't do that. I think too much. I analyse too much. What is the recommended age for this toy? Does it look like I have spent a reasonable amount? And whilst we are on that issue, what is a reasonable amount to spend on a virtual stranger's birthday gift??? When you consider that your child could possibly be invited to up to 30 birthday parties, that could amount to a huge stash of cash!
Other things for the parents of invitees to consider: whether to stay or drop off and go and whether to bring along a sibling when you can't seem to find a babysitter? Both of these become infinitely more tricky if the party venue is the backyard.
Ahhh, it's all a giant mine field waiting to explode in your face! Yours and your child's whole schooling experience could be affected by the decisions made regarding this one birthday party...
Note: Seeing the delight on the face of a 5 or 6 year old, surrounded by their "big school" friends at their very special birthday party, wipes all of the above headache away...I just need to figure out how to get to that point! Any tips would be much appreciated.