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Party Pooper

Party Pooper

Is it possible to have a child’s birthday party for under $200?

I mean, everyone has one amazing exception when I ask this question, of a friend who had a circus themed extravaganza in her backyard and made everything herself … or they suggest a trusty Chuck E. Cheese party, which can be (if you keep it small) far less than two hundred bones.

But I’m talking about the rest of us, who want to celebrate our kids’ birthdays without going to extraordinary effort, and who, like me, have already played the Chuck E. Cheese card and therefore must come up with a new idea. I did quite a bit of research for Punky’s fourth birthday party, planning to spend between $70–$100. I learned pretty quickly that my price range was all but impossible, unless I wanted to take my chances on a first-come-first-served gazebo at the local playground (I didn’t, and it’s a good thing, because it was cold and rainy on the day of Punky’s birthday party). No form of children’s birthday party entertainment in Nashville came to less than $200 if cake and party supplies were factored in, and quite a few came to much, much more.

The whole thing makes me sort of … angry. Each preschool party I hear about, or get invited to, seems to be more elaborate than the last. Punky has been invited to several fourth birthday parties held for children she hardly knows, with professionally printed invitations and massive guest lists. My friends have had petting zoo parties, princess makeover parties, professionally-planned tea parties, parties with inflatable’s, clowns, magicians, rock bands … the list is endless. It’s all so elaborate that I feel like I have to have something cool on my preschool party agenda or no one will show. I may not have a lot of cash, but I do have a lot of, well, pride.

So this year, I opted for a woman who came to our house and held a Build-a-Bear style workshop. It ended up being awesome. There was singing and storytelling, the kids loved it, the stuffed animals were high quality, and I felt good that at least the money we spent on the party went largely toward giving each of our guests something cool to take home, as opposed to plastic baggies containing lots of cheap crap.

But we spent way more than I wanted to. We spent more on the party than we’re spending on Punky’s birthday presents. And that kind of sucks.

Now I’m wondering how elaborate the parties are that you’ve been to or heard about. What’s the most you’ve spent on a birthday party? Are you, like me, sickened by how expensive everything has gotten? For example, I was going to reserve a room at a new strip mall playcenter down the street, thinking it would cost $50–$75 for an hour or two. Um, no. It was $200. And that included basically nothing, unless you count the “personal party planner,” who would ostensibly tell me what, exactly? What color cake I should buy for my daughter?

Also, what about presents? I had only six friends over for Punky’s party, but their generosity overwhelmed me. Punky now has all kinds of lovely new toys around the house and I can’t help but feel like it’s too much for a four year old, although she’s certainly not complaining! Now, I’m thinking about what I’m supposed to buy for Punky’s friend, who’s having a fifty-kid birthday party next month. Fifty presents! Fifty presents for a four-year-old! The thought of that literally makes my head explode. Are we on the same page here, or do I just need to get with the party program?

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