Who remembers the MTV television show, ‘My Super Sweet Sixteen’? Anyone?
In any case, the show followed some pretty spoiled teens as they endure the drama of planning their (as the title says) sweet 16th birthday. Mercedes, BMWs and thousands of dollars spent on eight tier cakes, chart topping performing musical guests, and fantastical venues — the program spotlighted absolute excess. And I loved watching it.
For my sweet 16, I was recovering from the bone lengthening procedure. A process which took me out of high school, had me home schooled, and helped me reach independence. Receive a car for a gift? I had to reach the pedals first. I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. But, my best friend at the time, Mike Gould, pulled some secret squirrel maneuvers and planned a fun dinner out with help from my parents.
To cover the massive metal rings drilled into my legs, my mom made me a green velvet dress. The arms had sequins and the color was deep green like a magical forest. Cinderella be damned, this gown was the most beautiful dress I had ever seen. At the stroke of 6 p.m. a white stretch limo rolled up my driveway. When my dad opened the doors, inside the vehicle was, of course, Mike waiting with a pink rose. In a wheelchair, pins protruding out my skin, and on Vicodin to take away the muscle spasms, I dined with those who meant most to me in a restaurant decorated like a castle. I received a quilt, a pink crystal desk lamp (which I still have), and a few other miscellaneous items. It was a far cry from that TV show, but it was wonderful.
Now, as Tristan’s 2nd birthday approaches I find myself going overboard. I did this, too, for Titan. Caterers? Live band? Face painters, balloon artists and tiered cakes? All of it. Maybe on some level I’m making up for the parties I never had. On another, maybe I’m trying to make sure they never lack the same experiences I did. Either way, when celebrating our kid’s birthday, how much is too much?
Even with a vast majority of parents opting to save money with digital and on-line party invitations, a report from the New York Post says 26 percent of parents in 2017 told BabyCenter.com that they “spent more than $500" on on their little one’s birthday, and that's not including presents. According to punchbowl.com, on average consumers typically spend between $10-$25 dollars on a gift. Even our local venues are cashing in (or trying to) on the spruced up birthday bash craze. MacDaddy's will shut down the entire place for, a "mere $10,000," a manager told me. And in Wilmington, Defy Gravity will let you exclusively rent out their space for three hours for a cool $2,700. Want one hour? That'll be $1,000 bucks. Here's a question, how to do next year?
While out shopping for Tristan's birthday, one mom (who didn’t want to be named) divulged she spent nearly $600 last year. Who knows if she was lying.
“There’s this stress to make it fun, to go all out, so others will want to come,” ahe added. And (perhaps) there lies one of the reasons why parents tend to go overboard — eliminating the possibility no one will come.
Consider Kristen P. Layne's heartbreaking viral blog post, where she writes no one showed up to her son Mahlon's 9th birthday party. He's a 3rd grader and greatly looked forward to his Diary Of A Whimpy Kid-themed celebration. Heartbreakingly, Mahlon ate cake alone. I can't imagine a worse feeling as a parent.
For Tristan, all I can do is hope it balances out in the end. On Saturday, we'll host a foam party in the back yard with a DJ. Yes, it will be catered. Yes, I'm also adding in some laser lights, fog machine, and other things when the sun sets. But, in place of a gift we're requesting our guests donate to charity in Tristan's name. It's important our children recognize their duty to help those in need. To me, sure you can celebrate to the max as long as you can spread the wealth and stay humble in the process.
Tiffanie DiDonato is a Marine wife, mom of two rambunctious boys, and functions best with a hot Starbucks in her hand. She is the author of "Dwarf: How One Woman Fought For A Body --And a life -- She was Never Supposed To Have" and also writes this weekly parenting column. She can be reached at Tiffanie.Gabrielse@JDNews.com