Okay listen, I'm not one to gripe, especially when it comes to other people's parenting choices. We all do what we believe is best for our families. Every single one of us has a our own personal set of ideals and expectations that are rooted in differing backgrounds. We also have children who prove to us over and over that they are their own tiny selves with unique personalities, keeping us on our toes and forcing us to change said expectations more than we ever dreamed we would before meeting them.
I have great respect for people who are sure of what is important to them, no matter what the status quo may be at any given time. I also have respect for people who trust science and feel more comfortable making decisions based on what their friends think or what the studies are showing. Basically, if you put any thought into your parenting at all and if you (as best you can) treat your kids with respect and let them know they are loved no matter what, I don't feel it's my place to judge. Sure, your choices may not jive with mine and I might think you're a little cuckoo at times but I won't say that to your face (taking this moment to mention one of my favorite mottos: "treat others as you would like them to treat you"... hint hint). I may have to take a few moments here and there to compare our differences with a close friend (or two...or ten) in an effort to justify the oftentimes random parenting choices I make. In the end though, I always end up at "we are all different and that's cool."
That said, I do have one bone to pick with all you fellow parents out there, and I hope you don't mind if I get right to the point: Why the hell do we make such a huge freaking deal about these damned BIRTHDAY PARTY INVITES??!!
Let me explain.
Before my daughter was in preschool, birthday parties were straightforward. We would have fun decorating a room with streamers and balloons, invite some close friends and playmates, hang out, eat cake and part ways. Then she started making her own friends and forming her own opinions and preferences (WTF??!), making these last two years a smidge more complicated. I'll admit, in the weeks leading up to her fourth birthday, I myself started getting excited about expanding on the bare bones party idea so I can see how in a way I was asking for it but....I just had no idea that in two short years, we could go from your basic party to the infamous Whale/Meerkat/Chipette craziness. My only defense is I didn't know any better. She was my first and I got caught up in the excitement of her having made her very own school friends and finding her own interests.
Not that I think the birthday party stuff isn't totally necessary and fun in it's headache inducing, overstimulating, sugar coma resulting, meltdown triggering kinda way, it's just that making them memorable and special becomes extraordinarily challenging the older they get. Part of the reason it gets so complicated is the invite list...
Now that your child is a preschooler, gone are the days when you can stick to inviting close friends and their babies and toddlers with whom your precious kiddos regularly parallel play next to. No, now you have the social pressures that go along with school friends. While you'd love nothing more than to be able to invite anyone who might be remotely interested in coming, you either can't afford to buy that many party favors or depending on the venue, are only allowed to invite a certain amount of people.
Anyway, after months of deliberation, you choose the venue or theme (often involving skillful manipulation...on both your part and your child's) for the party and then move into the excruciating "who to invite" phase. You now have neighborhood friends and school friends to consider and when you start getting them all down on paper it becomes clear some feelings are probably going to be hurt.
These days, many parents believe if you invite one kid to a party you have to invite their whole class (I think some schools even require this). I understand why it's come to that. I certainly don't wish to be the cause of any sweet feelings being hurt, but I have to be honest: I just feel I can't meet the expectation. It's too much pressure! Why can't we encourage our kids to avoid talking about their parties at school and help them understand how to be sensitive instead of forcing these huge parties? Most people in attendance (parents and kids alike) usually feel uncomfortable because they don't know you or your child all that well (or at all). They are there because they didn't want to be rude and turn down your invitation, and you invited them because you didn't want to be rude by not inviting them. Now the birthday girl or boy is overwhelmed and not talking to anyone or throwing a tantrum because it's all just too much and your guests have spent money they didn't really have on a gift they're not sure your kid will like.
Why all the fuss if we can just invite their nearest and dearest and allow them to let loose for a couple of hours with them?
I know many of you won't agree with me at all, but if you do I hope you keep it in mind the next time you're planning your kid's birthday party. When that time comes, if our family's name comes up, please don't feel guilty if you decide we don't make the cut. Take that part of the pressure off your shoulders even if it only brings you a moment of relief. I'm telling you honestly, I understand.