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Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy Birthdays!?!

It seems that birthdays have turned from a special day to a walloping HUGE event and children expect it now every year. Many families end up shuffling between birthday parties every weekend. Skating parties, themed parties, bowling parties, water park parties, movie parties, etc. Sometimes I wonder how much is just "keeping up with the Jones". It becomes an epidemic. Little Sally has a big party and invites everyone in her class at school, so the other mothers feel obligated to have a similar, or bigger, party when it's Suzie's birthday. And it snowballs. Children have come to expect all this now.

The problem with this is many families can't afford to do big parties for all of their children every year. Or they can't afford to buy gifts for every birthday party they are invited to. Competition (children and parents) gets expensive. It doesn't take long for children to begin to expect big to-do's and to begin to compare their parties and presents against those of their friends.

Spoiling our children with overwhelming parties and presents will more likely lead them to expect big parties and presents for all birthdays and then to other events like graduations (I've seen big parties given for kindergarden graduations), Sweet 16's, Engagement parties, Weddings (and all the showers, luncheons, rehearsal dinners, Bachelor and Bachelorette parties, etc), Housewarmings, Baby Showers, Sporting milestones, etc.

We are raising our children to have unrealistic expectations. They become the Bridezillas on the TV shows. They are spoiled rotten! Which means they will grow up to be spoiled rotten adults. Girls will think their boyfriends have to come up with even bigger and better ways to "propose". Children expect their parents to foot the bill for all this extravagance and they expect parents to spend major money on gifts for all the holidays, birthdays, and special events.

And it's not just our own children. Their friends have parties and expect nice gifts too. We are raising selfish consumers with high expectations and life doesn't always meet those expectations. This handicaps children. They are immature, spoiled, hard-to-live-with adults that will have problems when life doesn't go their way or their spouses, children, siblings, co-workers, and friends don't do what they want them to do.

When I was growing up, my sisters and I never had giant birthday parties with all our friends. I think we might have had a pajama party with some select friends once. I had a Sweet 16 outside with BBQ and loud music. That was it. On our birthday, Mom would make us a cake and have a special dinner for us. Her family lived near us and we had family get togethers for birthdays sometimes and that was always fun. Mom bought us a gift but it wasn't always on the exact day. If we saw something earlier or later, she went ahead and got it for us and told us it was for our birthday. And then it had to be affordable and was the one gift. When I graduated from high school I sent out the announcement but we didn't have a party and I was grateful and surprised by the gifts I did get. My wedding was very low key and the showers were fun and practical. My sisters were the same. We never felt hurt or unloved because we didn't get HUGE parties every year. We didn't expect it and when we had something special it made us feel special instead of entitled. I think my parents had the right perspective.

As adults, I expect my husband to do something special for my birthday but it doesn't have to be anything more than just taking me out to eat. My sisters and I gave each other 40th Birthday parties with friends and that was fun because it wasn't something we did all the time. It was truly special instead of just another big party.

I like to get Stan a gift and make him a card and wish him a "Happy Birthday". That lets him know I remembered, I think he's important enough to make it special. But we don't expect a big deal and it's special when we do have something extra special. Stan will usually take me out to eat and sometimes there are cards, or flowers, or a gift. But I know he remembers and he loves me enough to do something different.

It's the same for our holidays. For Christmas we do like to get each other nice gifts. We don't have children so we can splurge. My parents and my sisters and their husbands rarely give each other Christmas gifts and yet they love each other dearly. Valentine's Day is always special. He takes me out to eat and I make him a card. Sometimes there are flowers or small "remembrance" gifts. Our anniversary is the same. Every 5th year anniversary we love to take a little trip and get away. This is our personal way of celebrating. But it's pretty low key compared to most of the young people today. They expect the cards, flowers, teddy bears, jewelry, perfume, trips, expensive dinners, and much more.

Celebration is a business. Quit reacting to the marketing ploys. Those bridal shows are just big commercials enticing our young people to expect the $100,000 weddings. The ads and articles with the glossy pictures in magazines are appealing to our selfish desires. Holidays are getting bigger and bigger. Everyone is out for their part of our consumable income and they are demanding our children's attention in order to get our children to demand their products. Don't give in and waste money and spoil your children.

It's time to tone things down a little. There is nothing wrong with a homemade cake, a special dinner and a night at home together to celebrate their birthday. Keep a budget on gifts for your children and for their friends. Don't try to make everything perfect. Keep a balanced perspective. Just fun and special. You want them to know you love them and they are valuable to you but you don't want them spoiled. Try to keep that balance. Keep it simple and loving.

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