Covering parenting and child development issues
"God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well." (Voltaire)
I am sitting at Laserdome inhaing the aroma of popcorn while my daughter and eight of her closest friends run around trying to tag each other with lasers. My first thought when I walked in was that this place is Chuck E. Cheese (a place I studiously avoided) for tweens and teens. No overhead tunnels harboring toddler fugitives, but enough video games and laser events to keep all of the party guests well-occupied for the duration.
As an only child, my daughter has had a birthday blowout in varying proportions for nearly every birthday since she was in preschool. As a day care kid, she begin receiving birthday party invitations early on - bowling, gymnastics, mini golf. These events, which often included every child in her class, were a far cry from her first few birthday celebrations - quiet family celebrations that revolved around gifts, cake and conversation.
Eventually, the lure of a locale away from home (and the need to reciprocate) proved too great to resist. Minimal preparation on the home front and no clean-up afterward made for more time celebrating and less time doing the grunt work surrounding the festivities. As busy working parents, my friends and I were more than willing to write a check to foot the bill for an event that was all-but-guaranteed to be a hit. Most of the venues we frequented did many birthday parties, and they were well-oiled machines, shepherding the kids from one segment to the next seamlessly and within a designated time frame.
Somewhere along the line, the birthday parties subsided. My daughter's friends have siblings now, and not all of them have parties for friends every year. And this year, as what seemed like a good plan nearly imploded over a transportation snag (too many party-goers, not enough seats in the vehicles), I found myself wondering about birthday parties. How many? How often? And at what cost?
And once you start, when do you stop?
While I know philosophically that my child doesn't need to have a birthday bash every year, I'm also happy that this is something we can do for her. Still, it's one of those situations where I am torn. Are we spoiling her? And, if she's still able to adopt an attitude of gratitude despite birthday celebrations that may be excessive, is that spoiling such a bad thing?
My daughter's next party is a milestone - sweet sixteen - and hardly the year to take a stand - especially if we're just taking a stand for the sake of doing so. It may be, however, the perfect time to exit the party merry-go-round. And, while I'm ready to get off the ride, I'm not sure I'm willing to acknowledge what that means.
My little girl is growing up.