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Kid Birthday Party Ground Rules

Our kids don't get a party every year. Does this make us the meanest parents ever?

To birthday party or not to birthday party, that is the question.

Neither of my kids will be having a birthday party with their friends this year. Instead, they'll be celebrating their special days with family dinner, cake, presents at home and cupcakes brought to school.

Part of me is filled with relief. The other half feels a little guilty.

After several years of hosting annual birthday parties for our kids and their friends either creatively at home or at interesting locations throughout the area, my husband and I implemented an every-other-year rule for our children. On even numbered birthday years, the kids can help their parents plan a party with their friends to be held at home or at a reasonable party site. On the alternating years, the kids can choose a meal for mom to make or a restaurant for dinner with their immediate family.

It was a policy born partially out of budgetary necessity, since we keep having more children and funnily enough, our children keep making new friends, while still keeping up with their old pals.

Darn them for being so friendly.

It was also a system we thought was important to establish as part of the McFadden Family Anti-Brat Task Force. The theory is if the parties are not a guarantee, on the years they did occur the kids would consider the parties even more special, without Veruca-Salt-like entitlement every year.

But they're only kids once! Before I know it, they'll be teens who might not be the My Super Sweet Sixteen type and will shun the fuss and parental involvement of a big ol' party! Would it be such a big deal to annually invite the kids in the class and the neighborhood over to the house for some games and to beat the heck out of a piñata?

Is it wrong to deprive my kids of an annual party when they loooove them so much?

I know. I know. This dilemma just screams FIRST. WORLD. PROBLEM.

But if you've stayed with me this long, I'm guessing you're in the same middle class parenting bubble. And thus, I'd love to hear what you do at your house!

Do you have a party for your kids every year? Do you save the parties with friends for the years that you believe the kids especially need a little encouragement and fun?

While you ponder those pearl-clutching, hand-wringing, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey-playing questions, here are some locations in the Wheaton area for children's birthday parties that I recommend:

– Parties for ages 1-12 in which you have the entire gym to yourself, activities geared towards the attendees ages and a special party room for refreshments. Birthday party info here.

Brookside Nature Center – Kids turning 3 years and older can party with a naturalist-led activity, plus refreshments and play. Birthday party info here.

Kensington Volunteer Fire Department  – Give your rescue hero and truck-obsessed kid a party he or she will never forget. My friend and fellow blogger Jodifur  wrote a great guest post on my blog here on her experience hosting her son's birthday party at this fire station.

- The Train and Carousel will reopen weekends in April and you can host your spring, summer or fall b-day party in one of their two event rooms.  Birthday party info here.

Cutie Patootie Birthdays and Such – This new, pinkalicious girly tea party location on the Silver Spring/Olney border on Georgia Avenue is cute as pie.

Looking for more birthday party locations? Check out my list here.

Jessica McFadden is a mom of two with one more on the way who writes at A Parent in Silver Spring and elsewhere...when not obsessing over kid party privileges and other extremely serious parenting issues.

Leslie February 23, 2011 at 05:32 PM
We've always had a "friends" party separate from the family party. It's a bit exhausting because our two girls' birthdays are 2 weeks apart in Februrary, but we've kept things sane by having a rule that the girls can only invite as many friends as the age they are turning. So, my soon-to-be 7 year old has invited 7 school friends. We usually do a party at home, which is more work and prep, but just as much fun and MUCH cheaper than a party at the many fabulous party venues in the area.
Lisa G February 23, 2011 at 08:00 PM
I can't imagine skipping a birthday party. Toning down, sure, since it sounds like things have gotten out of hand for you, but skipping it altogether? Seems drastic to me. Who says you have to go crazy and spend a ton of money? Cake + candles + balloons = party, in my mind. Since your kids are old enough to help plan, I imagine they can handle the concept of choosing between cake and ice cream for 15 friends or something more fabulous for 4 close friends. Like Leslie, we also did the age = number of guests things to growing up, so I still follow that now. For presents, we have card and crafty things and ask guests to make a card with one thing they like about Birthday Girl. She pre-writes hers for her guests before the party and decorates them along with everyone else. It's the main activity. They all love it. I love not having a bunch of new toys to deal with.
{sue @ laundry for six} February 24, 2011 at 03:40 PM
I completely agree. There's no way we can have a party every year with four kids. Even a cheap party at home ends up being more than $100. Our best idea ever was to rent a moon bounce for the day and have 3 back to back birthday parties. I was exhausted by the end, but it was cost effective. (It also obviously wasn't on everyone's birthday, but it was close enough to 3 of them that we made it work.)
Jessica McFadden February 26, 2011 at 12:27 PM
Ohhhh, great idea! I'm envisioning a big January or February bday party next year - the months between Charlie and Eve's big days. Project!
Janel February 28, 2011 at 05:08 PM
We have been fairly lax on the bday parties mostly because we are really bad at planning anything! So I guess we could say that we are doing every other year until the kids notice :)

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