Area Study USA | Essay

Written Assignment No. 1/Area Study USA:
Kids birthday parties are out of control. It’s time for the adults that throw them to get a grip.

Like many kids who grew up in the ’80s, I went to a few friends’ and classmates’ birthday parties every year, and they were mostly simple, thrown-together affairs.

It was rare to find more than a handful of kids at a party, and the events were typically held at the friend’s home.

The one birthday party I went to that wasn’t — the location a dingy party room in the Pizza Hut basement — was such a rarity that it still stands out in my mind 30-plus years later.

A recent BabyCenter poll showed that 11 percent of parents spend more than $500 on their baby’s FIRST birthday. (Twenty-five percent spent between $200 to $500.)

According to one survey by supermarket retailer Asda, the average parent in the United Kingdom spends $28,000 on a child’s birthdays through age 21, the same Reuters story found.

That seems like an astonishing figure — until you do the math. Hundreds of dollars for a space big enough to hold everyone, $250 for a bounce house, $250-plus for an hour with a professional character

$150 or more for a custom birthday cake to feed all those people (professional character included), $10 per gift bag multiplied by 30 kids —

and let’s not forget themed napkins, plates, cups and decor. When you’re focused on creating a perfect event for your offspring, it’s easy to lose track of your budget.

This would all be just dandy if these showstopper junior galas were bringing us —or our offspring —endless joy. But are they?

When I talk to other parents, I mostly hear anxiety over not knowing the “rules” when it comes to what their 3- or 5-year-old child (sometimes even younger!) deserves from a birthday celebration.

And then stress over the reality of trying to pull off an Instagram-worthy party while working within the constraints of a normal human’s budget, schedule

space, artistic limitations and tolerance for dealing with an entire kindergarten classroom, plus all their parents, for hours on a precious Saturday afternoon.

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