Why I Won't Be Throwing A Party For My Son's Fourth Birthday

18/07/2011 18:41 | Updated 22 May 2015
Why I won't be throwing a party for my son's fourth birthdayRex Features

It's our youngest son's fourth birthday next month.

'Aww, sweet,' I hear you say. 'Happy birthday little fella.'

Well, thank you for your wishes – but yours, and his family's – will be the only ones sending them. Because you'll be the only ones who know.

We haven't told his friends – and we most certainly haven't told the parents of his friends. Because if we do that, then we might as well set fire to the money we've been trying to save for a mini-break this summer.

Call me a miserable old so-and-so, but this year I've decided (note the word: 'I've' – I'm a house dad: my house, my rules) that our littlest won't be having a bouncy castle, or a clown shaping balloons into freaky dog shapes, or a rented hall filled with screaming kids throwing sausage rolls and Battenburg at each other.

This year, he will be staying home, alone, with us. Just us. The five of us.

The commercialisation and pressure put on parents to make sure their little 'uns have a Fantastimagical Experience in the Kingdom of Birthday Fun is totally out of control.

Recently, a report revealed that two in five parents admitted to feeling pressured into organising more extravagant birthday parties for their children than they would like to. Four in five said they spent £500 or more on little Johnny and Jemima's celebrations.

The research by JK Rowling's children's charity, Lumos, said many children's clowns or entertainers charge £150 or more for an hour, and that's before you take in the expense of venue hire. Then there's the party bags which can cost anything from a couple of pounds to a tenner – it all mounts up when you factor in 30 possible attendees.

I confess that we are one of those families who have pushed the boat out for fairies and pixies, go-karts and bowling, batmen and robins to make our older children – now nine and six - feel like their special day is very special indeed.

Except they never are that special, not by comparison. There's always some parent who's hired a chocolate fountain or a visit from the Queen or Heston Blumenthal to do the catering to make the rest of us normal folk look a little tardy and mean-spirited in front of our off-spring.

So this year – for our youngest child anyway – we've said: 'Enough is enough.' We figure that our soon-to-be four year-old is still too young to realise what the hell is going on anyway.

The fact his birthday is in the holidays when most of his friends will be away, certainly helps assuage our guilt. And if anyone asks when his birthday is and whether he will be having a party, we can always say; "Oh, you missed it. We had it in the school holidays while you were away.'

Of course, there's the potentially explosive Invite-Back Scenario to contend with. My boy gets to go to his mates' parties, but no-one gets to go to his.

But, you know what, in time, with some high quality counselling, he'll get over it. It's not like he'll ever remember that he didn't have a party when he turned four – he can barely remember what day of the week it is or how to count to 20, so I think we're in the clear on that score.

So instead of subjecting ourselves to all the stress, all the expense, all the post-party 'Why the hell did we put ourselves through that torture' conversations, we're going to treat our youngest to an extra special VIP (Very Important Partygoer) bash. Exclusive attendance by invitation only. At the seaside. Happy birthday, son.

Do you agree that too much is made of birthdays and competitive parties?

Or do you like to celebrate and make a memorable day once a year (or more depending on the number of children!)?

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