I’ll be the first to admit it: I love a good themed party. It all starts with a great theme and before you know it you are down the Pinterest rabbit hole on a Saturday afternoon and then knee deep in Amazon orders for paper plates, party favors and….a pinata? Did I really order that pinata? Alexa says I did at 2:57am and I vaguely remember it. If I’m really, really honest my boys have a birthday coming up in March and I 100% already know the theme of the party so who am I to talk about the silliness of extravagant kids birthday parties? Well, I’m me and I’m going to talk about it.
I’m pretty new to Instagram. I hopped on before the world shut down for Covid so maybe the universe knew I was going to have more time on my hands than ever before and was giving me a gift. Obviously, if you are an observant human, you begin to notice themes on Instagram. Every influencer you follow promotes the same five items on the same day and by the third time you see it, you really start to think that your life may be lacking in some way without that Hoover carpet shampooer (purchased by Amanda Mallery in June of 2021).
One trend I have noticed without fail is the over the top kids’ birthday parties. And by kids I mean TODDLERS. Toddlers…the ones who still scream and cry to get a point across. Toddlers…the ones still in diapers. Toddlers…the ones who don’t really know what a theme is. I look at these toddler/preschool birthday parties on the ‘gram and am immediately transported back to my birthday parties at that age and I laugh. I laugh because they were so simple it’s funny. I laugh because I seriously think it would almost be frowned upon to have one of those birthday parties now!
If you were born in the ’80s (and probably the ’70s too) you know the parties I’m talking about. Not one of us had birthday parties at our houses when we were really little. They were at the fast food joints and mine was Burger King all the way. The twisty slide, the BALL PIT, the bouncy rocking animals that we all busted our lip on at least once. Those were the days. A paper crown put on your head, a birthday cake PROVIDED BY BURGER KING because it literally had the “King” on it, and the tastiest little hamburgers and fries in the world.
Our moms were geniuses. They didn’t have to clean house for our party. They didn’t have to clean up after our party. They just showed up and let the King do its thing.
Not a Burger King fan? Alright…fast forward to 1984 where we high rolled it into Chuck E. Cheese. Those long tables where they crammed 57 chairs in so you could sit in front of the huge (freaking scary) band made up of creepy animals while chowing down on sub par pizza and cafeteria-clear pitchers of soda. Yes ma’am. That was living.
Because I love a good list, here are the top three most extravagant items I see at today’s toddler birthday parties (and by “see” I mean on Instagram…I’ve never actually attended one of these parties).
- Balloons. Y’all….you know you’ve seen them. Every influencer right now has these INSANE balloon decorations. They aren’t decorations. I literally don’t even know what to call them. They are these balloon creations made with hundreds and quite possibly thousands of the most beautiful balloons I’ve ever seen in any theme you can think of. And every week they just keep getting bigger with every party posted. You did 500? I’ll see your 500 and raise you to 5000 balloons that are arranged in the shape of my kid’s face!
- The Cake(s)/Treats. Yes, I put cakes plural because it’s almost like a wedding where these little ones have a regular cake, a smash cake, a mini smash cake for every mini guest, cake pops all over the place, cookies frosted with 24 karat gold powder at each place setting, and don’t forget the mini cake or pie you are going to take home with you in your individually wrapped bag. You will need a to-go bag because the airbrushed cotton candy was too good to pass up and the popcorn machine was a HUGE hit too but you may have missed it because you were too busy choosing which themed cocktail you wanted at the BAR. Yes, there is a BAR…at a baby’s birthday party…and all of a sudden it’s cute to name alcoholic beverages after the birthday boy or girl.
- Last but not least, it’s not a party on Instagram until you’ve rolled out the massive bounce house and ball pit. I’m not talking about the $150 red, yellow, and blue bounce house you buy at Costco or the plastic Walmart swimming pool that you converted into a ball pit. I’m talking about the larger than life, pretty, WHITE bounce house and the most beautiful ball pit I’ve ever seen with the iridescent balls that glimmer in pictures. It’s a sight, y’all. A real sight.
Now here’s where we get real honest with each other: If I could afford it, would I do it too? Would you? I think in some ways we’ve tangled up what it means to want the best for our children by thinking it means we give them the most of everything. Does extravagant always equal the best? Are we somehow teaching our children that the amount of money we spend on a party represents how much we love them? I want to give my kids the world too but at what point does it do more harm than good? At what point does it become about US instead of them?I’ll tell you what I wish I could do. I wish I could have my kids experience a Burger King birthday. I wish I could somehow teach them that the little girl smiling from ear to ear at Burger King in the pictures above is just as happy as that kid they saw on Instagram standing in front of their giant bounce house. Because she was just as happy and those pictures still make me happy some 37 years later. Sometimes life’s greatest pleasures lie in the simplest of things, the simplest of parties, and the Burger Kings of the world.