The parental drive to out do each other

Why do we, as parents, have the insatiable need (whether we realize it or not) to out do each other? The best winter coat, the hottest toy, the biggest birthday party, the best everything for our kids.

On one level, I get it. We want our kids to be warm, to know that we love them, and so on. But now that Kender has just celebrated her 4th birthday (which was a huge success, by the way!) I got to thinking about why I was feeling badly about not having her party at the bowling alley, the local children’s museum, or the indoor play area. After giving it some thought, though, it occurred to me that it doesn’t really matter where we have her party! I planned a party with a theme she would love (Tangled) and invited all of her friends from school and her old play group (we invited 10 kids!) to come over and celebrate.

I took the time to hand draw a picture for a game of “Pin the Frying Pan on Flynn Rider’s Head” that came out pretty darn awesome!.  I made a cake from scratch and decorated it myself. I bought paper lanterns to hang up. She loved the whole party because she was comfortable in the atmosphere we had it in, and she enjoyed showing off her pets, her house, her toys to her friends.

Why should any of this make me feel like a bad parent?

I am not a bad parent by any means, and I know this. I have my days, like anyone, where I am not the best parent I could be, but over all, I am a damn good parent. So, why does it seem that the parental society looks down on anyone who doesn’t spend a small fortune on their kids birthday party? When I was growing up, I had a handful of parties at other locations – the bowling alley, McDonalds – but most of my parties, and certainly some of the most memorable, happened at my house. My mom made me a pinata one time. She let me invite 17 kids. I’m sure she was thinking that she’s glad my birthday is in the summer and we could have the party outside.

I wonder if the evolution of social media has anything to do with it. I’m sure there’s always been some level of motivation to outdo the other parents, but now that we can all instantly share photos, videos and thoughts on the parties, if there is some kind of increased need to do something better than the last parent. A “the whole world is going to see the photos of my kids party, so we better make it a good one” mentality, perhaps?

Maybe it just comes from some kind of ingrained parental mechanism. Maybe it’s just human nature. The phrase “keeping up with the Joneses,” anyone? I’m not really sure what to attribute it to. But, I am going to just keep on plugging away at this parenting thing, and being the best parent I can, regardless of whether or not Kender’s next party is at the bowling ally or in our living room. Maybe I can slowly start changing the way people look at a great kids party, one birthday at a time.

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3 thoughts on “The parental drive to out do each other

  1. Totally agree with you. parents go way overboard with parties these days. That being said I’m sure I will too when my kids are bigger and want a super fun party. We are enjoying the days of them being this little where we can keep it low key and at our house. I think also as the kids get older it is easier to plan a party at a central location since often you have to invite the entire class. It would just be strange to have a parent drop off their child at someones house if they didn’t know the birthday kids parents. When it’s in a central public location it isn’t so odd. I recently went to a bday party for a 3 year old at a bowling alley. It was just not personal and for a 3 year old sort of strange. Loving your new blog format!

  2. All really great points! And I think that’s another big societal thing: going out and advertising like we have something to prove. You’re right on the money with social media furthering this… we can share with TONS of people RIGHT when we do something. We can show things off as soon as we get them and brag about them as soon as we do them. But I think it boils down to whether or not we’re happy with our own efforts and our own lives. It’s possible to cater to a kid without blowing a small fortune, and it’s possible to live your life and make choices without bragging about how you’ve managed to outdo someone. Kender is an awesome kid, and it’s because she has awesome parents who get it 🙂

  3. The best parties I ever had were the ones at my house, although my mother later confessed that she preferred the ones at Chuck-E-Cheese/the bowling alley/the swimming pool because it meant not having to clean up and care for a bunch of children and their parents in her house! So kudos to you for handling that (and hand-drawing an awesome-sounding game. I’d totally play!)

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