Monday, July 09, 2007

Didn't We Just Do This?

I received an invitation in the mail for our niece’s first birthday party, and I was flabbergasted. It’s really the only word. Now, of course a first birthday is a big deal. But this wasn’t just any birthday party:

They rented a hall. And not just any hall; a fancy place that doesn’t say “birthday party” so much as it says “My Super Sweet 16”. They also included hotel information in case we’d like to stay overnight (they’re about a 3 to 4-hour drive away; they reserved a block and it’s NOT at the Super 8). This hall also means they’ve invited enough people to justify renting a hall and reserving a block. My husband’s grandmother was invited, to show how deep they went with this. She is the child’s father’s stepfather’s ex-wife’s mother, not even related AT ALL.

Now, I can understand this if their house wasn’t suited to host a party. But it’s the same size as the houses in the rest of the family. They’re also custom printed invitations; now, I do custom printed invitations all the time, but that’s because I’m a graphic designer and I enjoy showing off. What we’re looking at here looks to be more of an event than the baby shower we had barely a year ago when we all spent a great deal of money to help welcome little Josie into the world. All I could think when I saw this invitation was "I'm sorry, but didn't we just do this?"

I’m all about celebrating birthdays, but I feel like every month we have a little one’s birthday to celebrate. This wouldn't be a big deal, but celebrating with my husband’s step-side of the family includes bringing a very expensive gift (otherwise you look — and feel — cheap). It’s STUPID. These are not wealthy people, but they live as if they are, having extravagant parties and shunning Target and TJ Maxx in favor of Marshall Fields and Von Maur. And we’re expected to keep up with this standard. It’s absurd.

Contrast this to my best friend’s son’s 5th birthday party, a simple pool party for family at their home. Sure, she bakes a funky cake for him, but she loves to do this. And there’s no ridiculous expectation for gifts—sure you bring something because it’s fun to buy things for 5-year-old boys (and hell, Transformers are in the stores now!), but there’s no fear of being seen as cheap because you bought his cool Transformers T-shirt from Target for $8 and not the $30 fancypants one from Lord & Taylor. Her kids’ first birthdays were mellow, and they have continued to follow suit. These parties make sense, but even these are still expensive.

Birthday parties are an expense that I think few consider when adding up the price of raising a kid. No, going to the extremes that my husband’s family is going to is seriously overboard, but even a small party for the family can get extremely expensive. Now add up the parties once the kid gets into school. Inviting 30 kids so no one in class feels left out, competing with the other families. And don’t forget that each of these 30 kids is having a party, so a couple times a month you’ll be buying a present so your kid doesn’t attend the party empty-handed. I can’t believe how much my mom spends on birthday presents for my niece’s friends. I suppose it’s not any more expensive than one of our dinner parties, or bringing a bottle of wine to a friend’s; I guess what’s mostly at issue is that I don’t enjoy myself at the kids’ pool party where I’m playing babysitter/lifeguard. Perhaps this is where “selfish” comes in. But I digress…

My point is that little Josie, their “miracle baby”, is going to be spoiled senseless, just like all the other kids in that family. That’s reason alone to not want to bring kids into that family. I would have to return all the expensive gifts because I wouldn’t be able to stand my kid wearing a $50 outfit or playing with a $100 toy. They deserve nice things, but nice and extravagant are two very different things.


Tanya said...

A Hall? A HALL????


I can this happening with my sister's kid. First grandbaby, my sister is a label whore...yeah...

I'm gonna buy knock off labels (Addiddass, Nake, Praga) for this precious little one. What? I have to pay for shipping too!!

Me? I'd not be going to this party. Just my 2 cents.

frieda said...

Oh lord—spoiling senseless is a great way to put it.

We have a side of the extended family who does that kind of crap. One year for one of the baby's first birthdays they all gathered around for the gift unwrapping. Everything was pretty normal until the Grandmother's gift was opened. The huge toy trunk in the corner? THAT was her gift. FILLED with toys. AND clothes. STACKS of clothes. It was like..why did anyone else even buy anything? What a waste of money.

These family members are not rich either , and have already been in debt counseling. Guess it's not working. I worry about our world.

GottabeMe said...

Wow. And the kid won't remember a thing about her 1st birthday!

GottabeMe said...

And oooooh, you are a graphic designer? I'd LOVE to talk to you about that, I am seriously considering changing careers. Drop me an email at if you don't mind me picking your brain about graphic design.