Thursday 25 August 2011

To party or not?

I was going to blog about the trip, but then decided to first write about something else. Which is, public reactions to our joint decision (mine, S's and Ads') not to hold a birthday party for him this year. Why did we do this? There are several reasons. From my experience of several kids including mine over the years, what kids like most about birthday parties is a) the gifts and b) the cake. Everything else - the balloons, the games, the friends - in my humble opinion, is the .....err........icing on the cake. If I held a birthday party in the park, with no cake (Californian-style folks, only vegan snacks! It's happened!) and a no-gifts policy (again, we've been there), is the child going to love it? Nope! I believe, very very strongly, that birthday parties are nothing but ego-boosting exercises. The child gets to feel he is the center of the universe, however briefly. It's a feel-good thing. What is wrong with that, you say? Absolutely nothing! I like birthday parties, when they are someone else's and not my child's (or my own, for that matter!). I want my child to feel special on the day that is far more special for his parents than for him. I want to buy him gifts to demonstrate my gratitude to him for coming into our lives. But do I need to have a big bash to do this? Not at all. So, this year, Ads will have a cake to cut in the evening after dinner. We will all sing happy birthday. He has already been bought tons of gifts and may get a couple more this weekend. He has new clothes. He feels special. He is very very special and he knows it and I want him to understand that having a party will not make him more special. In fact, having a party will add nothing to his birthday experience except a few photographs, and, let's face it, a lot of gifts that he won't like anyway.
So, after all this rambling, what is the point I am making? The point is - I want Ads to understand a few things from a very early age, and I think this decision will allow him to think about some pretty fundamental stuff. At 6, I think he is old enough and mature enough to appreciate these arguments.
1. He does not need to follow the herd. Just because everyone else has a birthday party, does not mean you have to have one too. Yes the active encouragement to dispense with the party was mine but we have been talking about it with him for the last two months. In point of fact, I was mentally prepared for him to reject our proposal and had already made a guest list for the party. The turnaround and the choice was entirely his, and I am very very proud of him today.
2. Birthdays should be about gratitude and reflection. Not about acquisitiveness and show-iness. I've been told that Ads is too young to understand this now, but don't we always underestimate our kids and what they can and cannot understand? I have myself been guilty of this several times. Does Ads "get" it? Maybe, maybe not. Is he "beginning to get" it? Yes, he is. 6 years of having me as a mother has to have had some effect!
3. Make informed and considered choices. This is really a corollary to point#1 above. Any decision that he takes must be dictated by reason. Emotional reasons - hey, that's an oxymoron! More fundamentally, he needs to understand that most of the time, he will have a choice. It's up to him to exercise it.
So, I was talking about public reactions. Gasp! You are not having a party? He is too young for this! Paavom! All I can do is shrug my shoulders. This is an active parenting choice I make, like so many other less unpopular ones :( I want my child to grow up with certain values. Having parties every year goes against those values. Having said that, will I deny him a party if he really really wants one next year? No way. If that's how he wants to celebrate his birthday, I am all for it. I am grateful to him for giving me the chance to demonstrate my opinion this year. Next year, if he says "Amma, your principles are utter rubbish and I think I'm better off with a party", well then, atleast he has thought about it and I am happy to bow to his decision.
I didn't have parties as a kid. There was one for my 1st birthday. I requested one for my 10th birthday and another for my 18th. I had fun on both. I had fun on all the other years when I didn't have parties too. The same goes for S. 
I suspect that another reason that Ads capitulated this year was that with all the moves, he doesn't have a few really good friends that he wants to invite home for his big day. Last year in Noida, the party was at home. He had a couple of good friends and he did have fun playing with them. Now those kids aren't around and he is mature enough to realize that they made all the difference.
If you are going to comment, please I beg you, don't be a naysayer! I don't want to hear it :(( I'm getting enough grief from other quarters for this decision anyway! But if you think I did right, then do comment :)


  1. Sweetheart U did the right thing!! It is always ok to do things that your heart and mind tell you to. Along with that teaching kids how to listen to their hearts is also important. Like you said it doesn't matter if next year he decides for a party but he'll learn benefits of both types of celebrations and will make an informed decision. Cheer up! Hugs to you :)

  2. You did right! I agree with you when you say you don't have to follow the herd. A party and a lot of wastage is not at all necessary to feel good about oneself. Don't worry, Ads is a gr8 sure he is convinced and if he wants one year, we can always have a warm, at-home ones too..

  3. Makes sense. I've been wanting to shift the birthdays from home/party halls to exercises in social work. I wanted to convert these to days when we would go out and spend a day with a home for kids without making it a party affair while we also get an opportunity to force ourselves to do this every year and hopefully more often.
    Hope i get to do this next year.

  4. Thank you sooo much simran! I want reaffirmation and reinforcements!!! I am racked by doubts. Was it a small thing that i could have done for him which would have given him a little extra joy? But I want him to focus on the essentials of a joyful life, not the frills. Bday parties are nice-to- have, not need-to-have.
    Hugs back :) Btw, I was doing a distance learning program from the london school of economics, it was supposed to take 1 year but i took 2 :)

  5. Thanks Uma. That's what i thought. I'm not doing irrevocable damage by not having a party for his 6th. He can have one on his 7th if he likes :) by that time, i guess he would also have more friends, maybe some close friends as well.

  6. But you still are having a party - only there will be no "guests"! Four of you would be celebrating it and that's a party!
    We have had parties on all our birthdays but the guest list has differed - from the four of us, to immediate relatives, to relatives living close by, to family friends, to neighbors to class mates - but there's always a celebration.
    When I first read your FB status - no party I took it in the sense of no celebrations as such :)
    It makes sense inviting people whose company Ads will really enjoy rather than it being a formality to add up atleast 10 or more people to your guest list for it to qualify as a party!

  7. I am so with you on this one :). And you should be rightly very proud of Ads for going along with it, and making the decision himself!

    Last year, I firmly told everyone who asked that we would cut a small cake with just family, which meant whoever lives in our house :).

  8. L_R: I want to do that too. Me too, next year :)

  9. Yuvika: yes thats what I thot too. I've made the day special by making kheer for him which he loves. We have a large chocolate truffle cake which shall be cut after dad gets home, complete with candles and all :) Next year, i feel he will have tons of friends and then i will do something simple at home.

  10. Oh dear
    It's such a touchy subject isn't it? I really appreciate your ability to make a decision that goes against conventional tides, your ability to not give in to any sort of "expectations" or emotional's tough.
    I've always give in, and u know that ;-)
    Then, Advaith has agreed, with your resoning and his own maturity. Even better
    As far as you're all happy, stick with what you want to do, not what the world wants you to...

  11. @Forever mother: Touchy is damn right! You can imagine the repurcussions I am still facing!


I would love to hear your thoughts :)