This was originally posted on the now defunct Chicago Moms Blog post:
When I was a kid, birthdays were fun. My mom made us whatever we wanted for dinner and on the closest weekend, family (cousins, aunts, grandparents) came for cake and ice cream. We only had birthday parties for what my mom deemed to be "special" birthdays: 5 — because you weren't a baby any more; 10 — because you were in double digits; and 13 — because you were finally a teenager. I also had a sleepover when I turned 16, but I was totally responsible for it.
I remember these parties vividly. For my fifth birthday, five little girls come to my house dressed up in their mama's hats and dresses and high heals. We played musical chairs in our dress-up clothes and had a tea party. My special gift was a Tammy doll cake. There was a real doll, and her dress was made of the cake and icing. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. My mom used Tammy because she thought that, at five, I was too young to play with a doll that had breasts (i.e., Barbie). It was a lovely, sweet party where the thrill of dressing up and putting on a little lipstick remains a tender memory for me more than 40 years later.
Nowadays, kids have birthday parties every year — often elaborate, expensive birthday parties. Parents are "encouraged" to invite everyone in the class so no one feels left out. While I can appreciate the underlying premise of this "fairness" policy, I found with twins that it got to be ridiculously cumbersome and expensive: one birthday, two children, two classes of 20+ kids. I refused to buy into it, but it did get hard to limit the invitation list.
This month, our local parenting magazine ran a special advertising section on party entertainment. (Full disclosure here: I was checking it out because my husband offers a party package through his pet store.) A full-page, tabloid-sized, four-color ad promoting a princess party caught my eye.
A local salon was offering princess party packages "just for preschool girls" (five and under). Ranging in price from $34.95 to $59.95 per girl, children come dressed in their own costumes and receive a "party up-do", shimmery make-up application, a 15-minute "runway dance", 20 minutes in a party room and a goodie bag with a tiara, glitter spray, lollipop and photo. The more expensive packages included a "mini-mani and mini-pedi" and a "strawberry paraffin hand treatment." Parents provide snacks and drinks.
Is it me, or is this just wrong? Maybe I'm a real Scrooge, but the cost alone gives me heart palpitations, particularly in this economy. For my daughter and five little friends, this party would have run $359.75 + treats and drinks.
While I get that a princess party is many a little girl's dream, the overt sexualization of very young girls that this party package implies makes my stomach more than a little queasy. I admit I don't understand the whole pageant community, and this seems like a direct extension of that mentality.
I don't mean to be a party pooper. There's nothing wrong with a little dress up and make believe. It just seems to me that this same idea could be accomplished in a much more age-appropriate manner, pretty inexpensively, with a little imagination and a reasonable tolerance for mess.
Besides, I didn't get my first pedicure until I was 40.
This is an original Chicago Moms Blog post. When Susan isn't busy party planning, she can be found blogging at Two Kinds of People and The Animal Store Blog.