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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Party's Over

A deep melancholia hits me this afternoon.  It probably is rooted in my daughter being away for several weeks.  It is crazy how quiet a house can be without a 10 year old occupying it.  The weekends have been eerily wide open and frankly, odd.  Not that the time alone with my wife hasn't been amazing, it has.  But you forget, or more specifically don't realize, how much time and energy parenting occupies in your life.

But this was an important moment for the little one, and for her parents too.  4th grade presented a ton of social obstacles that neither she, nor we, were prepared to handle.  She needed to experience new things and meet new people.  Through a third party we are told she is enjoying "being herself."  "Whatever the hell that is" we asked.

Point is there were far too many hindrances and anxious moments navigating her schools' halls this year.

And as I look back one thing strikes me as the prime offender:  Birthday parties.

Don't get me wrong, we should all have some life affirming celebration time.  The day we were born is special and demands attention, even at (or especially!) our advanced ages.

How far should we be going at school age is another thing altogether.  Are parties that include entire classes and their siblings appropriate?  Probably not.  After all what message does it send that EVERYONE wants to know and admire you?  The wrong one undoubtably.  By the time you are working age most of us are lucky to have a handful of really close friends.

The same can be said for the intimate gathering, especially in the world of pre-teen girls.  If you invite 5 or 10 of your "besties" it is most certainly going to create tension.  Inevitably there are 1 or 2 girls who thought they were on the short list.  And telling your daughters to keep the party a secret is not a solution.  It still stings us that some school girls, fully aware our daughter was not included on an invite list, asked sarcastically what she had planned for the evening?  They 1) knew they were supposed to be discreet about the event and 2) knew our daughter was not on the list.  Essentially it provided fuel for malice.  Is that what the party was intended for?

Of course not.  So what then is the solution?  We cannot in good conscience put an end to birthday celebrations, right?

Or maybe we can.

Everyone knows middle school and/or adolescence can be quite challenging for kids.  These days it seems like it is far more complex than ever before.

With that this space is requesting birthday parties be discontinued from age 10 through age 15.

No more invites to a select few.  No more invites to the masses.

Nope.  From now on a simple "Happy Birthday" from peers and the shared acceptance that we are all grateful that he or she is alive and well.

However, we do not need to bowl with you, or ride ponies, or even eat cake to acknowledge the occassion.  It is far more important to co-exist and get along at an early age.  There is plenty of time to draw lines in the sand and exclude/include who we want to as we get older.

This was the first year our girl did not have a birthday party (big or small.)  There were mitigating factors, camp abroad chief amongst them.  My guess is when the dust settles and she looks back at the year that was this fact will not even register.

She is able to make plans with friends most any weekend.  She sees many of them during sports team practices and other shared events.

Moving forward she should have the flexibility to hang with jocks, or bookworms, or whomever.

Parties potentially disrupt social convention and seem more detrimental to the process.

Isn't adolescence hard enough?

Let the kids party all the time.  And act themselves, without our interference!

Social Darwinism need not include cake and balloons.  Let it happen organically with social media updates and cyber bullying.

Party people can have their cake and eat it too... alone.

* Apologies to bakers, party planners, and all those who make money on the massive events we call kids parties.  Find your money making opportunities elsewhere.  Perhaps we make parties for those 30-60 bigger events, since, after all, anyone over 30 these days could use a big party for making it this long.  You could argue the parties should be more vital as you age, not wasted on youth.  Sound like a massive justification?  Tough.

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