Because sometimes it’s easy for mums and dads to go overboard!
As parents, we always want what’s best for our children. So while we would love to shower them with gifts and attention, and use every opportunity possible to express our love, sometimes we need to step back and reconsider. Children these days have far more than they need. And with that, comes the desire for more. You see this, especially at birthday parties. If one year, you opt for a gorgeous two-tiered cake, you feel the need to top it the following year with a three-tiered one! Add regular social etiquette in the mix (return favours and inviting your child’s entire class), and you’re dealing with parties that are often more elaborate than our weddings were. So, how do you avoid the party trap as a parent? We have some useful tips.
To have or not to have
Before you start planning the party, decide if you really need to have one. If you have been having conversations about sustainability and charity with your children, you might be surprised to hear that they don’t really need or want a party after all! If you haven’t had the opportunity so far, start introducing these topics to them sooner rather than later. Our young ones are more thoughtful than we often give them credit for, and a little bit of explanation about sharing and not overusing resources might have them opt for a quieter celebration.
Even if your kids don’t agree to not having a party, try to get them to give away something to make way for all the new gifts they will inevitably receive. Look at the work of places like Crossroads Foundation, HandsOn Hong Kong and PlasticFree Seas, to name a few. Your children can choose to donate to these organisations directly, or you could decide to make it a TwoPresents party and donate a percentage to the organisation of your choice.
Money saved is money earned
You’re not being a cheapskate if you look at the most economical way of doing things. Learning and teaching your kids frugality will be a far more valuable gift in the years to come than anything they can be bought.
- Look for venues that are free or affordable.
- Try to keep the snacks simple and homemade (to whatever extent possible).
- Source inexpensive and yet long-lasting return favours, if you choose to give them out at all.
- Rather than hiring an expensive party entertainer, opt for simple and fun games that will keep the kids entertained.
- Do not buy expensive helium balloons, plastic decorations and the such, that get discarded as soon as the party is over. Try to opt for hanging decorations that can be reused year on year, or make them yourself as an arts and crafts project with your birthday baby.
This too shall pass
When our kids have their heart set on something, it’s hard to ignore the pleading, the tears, the temper and the sulks that come with not getting what they want. Steel yourself and remind yourself repeatedly that this too shall pass. Children’s whims change all the time and almost as soon as you have braced yourself for a “My Little Pony” party, they will have decided they prefer “PJ Masks”. As soon as you start organising themed parties, you’re on the slippery slide of choosing a suitable cake (with elaborate fondant that may get wasted), matching cutlery, return gifts, etc. All of this pushes up the cost a fair bit and makes these items not reusable. Besides, once you have done one themed party, it sets a standard for what your child will expect the following year.
It’s also very easy for us parents too to fall into the “Keeping up with the Joneses” trap. After all, the triumph of a well-organised party, the satisfaction of seeing all the food and cake devoured and the compliments heaped on the Supermama who managed to pull it all together is addictive. If we want to bring up kids who are less materialistic, it is essential that we practice what we preach ourselves.
Whom to invite
Many schools have a policy that if you are using the school’s system (teachers, bus mothers or notebooks) to invite one classmate, then all must be invited. It’s a great policy to ensure that children don’t get left out. But often it means that any given party has no less than 25 children! Add on the parents who accompany their kids (and younger siblings who tag along) and those numbers spiral up. It might be wiser to have a smaller celebration in school and then invite your child’s closest friends for a larger celebration.
If your little one is very social and has a lot of friends and gets invited to a lot of parties him/herself, you would naturally want to, or need to, invite quite a few children in return. Choose a venue that will allow kids to be dropped off by their parents. That way, you can retain some measure of control over the number of guests at the party.
Gifts and return favours
This is the biggest trap of all – not only when it comes to presents and return favours for your child’s party, but also when it comes to the gifting etiquette of attending a party as a guest. All parents have different views on this (and there is no right or wrong!), but try to encourage minimal gift exchange. At the risk of sounding extreme, tell parents that you are part of a zero-waste socio-cultural experiment and you are currently not accepting gifts! When your child is invited to a TwoPresents party, respect it and don’t opt to give a physical gift. Where you can, give vouchers and gift experiences, so the birthday child can choose what he or she needs, rather than getting stuck with yet another thing that they don’t need.