Petty, competitive snipes are one thing amongst young children, but when it comes to the sacred ritual of birthday parties, parents are getting just as fired up with each other.
Pressure to make sure your child's birthday party surpass their friends' birthday parties has grown to the point where parents are near-bankrupting themselves to put on a show and having mini tantrums to rival the kids' when it all gets too much.
Party bags are positively bursting at the seams, worth almost as much as the presents received. A slice of birthday cake and a few party poppers just won't cut it any more. "Firstly, the bags no longer take the form of good old-fashioned paper bags, but are more like a ladies handbag, or an exquisite box," says Alison Burtenshaw-Jones, mum of Sian, 7 and Emily-Rose, 1.
Tokens of appreciation in these packages, says Alison, have included a bucket and spade, brought home from a one-year-old's birthday party, diamante hair-slides and bangles, handmade soaps, expensive lip balm, elegant stationary as well as purses. Really, why not pop a Chanel lipstick in there too?
Are children's birthday parties set to resemble indulgent celebrity-style bashes in the future? It seems so. Many of the parties have costly themes, such as an 'Animal Experience Party' where geckos, spiders, snakes and tarantulas are on hand to add an extra wow factor.
The underlying reason for such unnecessary extravagance seems to be a need for popularity, amongst the parents as much as the kids. If children have 'good' parties, their 'playground status' is instantly elevated. Friends are nicer to them, bullies want to be their friends and, for a brief while, it's all about them.
This is most clearly demonstrated in MTV's 'Sweet Sixteen' reality shows, where wealthy American teens sulk and throw tantrums until their million dollar birthday party, birthday Mercedes and celebrity appearance is secured and signed for on the dotted line.
More often than not, these parties are held in clubs the teens are half a decade away from legally being able to get into. One girl was so eager to celebrate her sweet sixteenth birthday she demanded it a year early, her parents forced to throw her a less traditional 'sweet fifteenth'. Who said patience was a virtue anyway?Madonna always claimed it's a material world, but children today seem to be relating to this at a much earlier age than in past generations. More is definitely more where many children are concerned and 'no' is not a word they recognise.
At the end of the day, it seems that for some parents coughing up the cash is easier than dealing with a child stomping their feet or having other parents bitch at the school gates. Have you ever felt pressured into splashing out for a luxe children's party or do you put your foot down? Have your say below. By Amiee Jones