Don’t Expect Other Parents To Spring For Your Kid’s Fancy Birthday Party

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child's birthday partyRemember when a child’s birthday party involved just inviting a few kids over for cake and possibly pin the tail on the donkey? What happened to that inexpensive ritual? Why are so many parents opting to celebrate their small child’s birthday in a public place that requires a financial investment?

A woman wrote in to Dear Prudence this week, wondering if it was okay to be annoyed that her miserly in-laws were asking attendees of their child’s birthday party — which they planned at a restaurant — to pay their own way:

My brother and his wife are very conservative. They follow the Dave Ramsey program and constantly gloat about how they are paying off so much debt, even though they make twice the national average. Recently, they invited us to their child’s birthday party at a local restaurant. The invitation made it clear that we would be responsible for our own meals and entertainment costs. It seems rude to have a birthday party at a place where you expect your guest to pay money for being there… it seems to me if you want to host a party at a place like this, you should be prepared to foot the bill.

It seems rude, because it is. If you are throwing a party for your small child, and you insist on having it in a public place, you should foot the bill. If you can’t afford to do that or just don’t like to part with your money, have the party at home. It’s that simple.

We just attended a party for my pre-schooler’s classmate. It was held at one of those bouncy-house emporiums and the kids ate pizza and cupcakes and bounced around for an hour. It was great. Had the parents required us all to chip in, it’s not that it would have been really expensive — probably about $20 a kid — but it would have created a weird dynamic and put a downer on the party. Why complicate a bill-paying process and make your guests’ experience awkward? That just seems tacky. These parents not only hosted the party, they paid for all of us to park. That was a nice gesture. In turn, their child had a special day filled with gifts and friends.

The politics of the birthday party are strange for sure, and they only get more strange as you get older. I’m sure we’ve all been to that adult birthday party that was thrown for an honoree who loves a fancy, expensive restaurant, and been forced to pay a ridiculous amount of money to make their birthday “special.” But that is a totally different dynamic, because it’s essentially a group of adults throwing a birthday party for a friend — it’s a collective effort. Parents throwing a birthday party for their child should not expect the occasion to be a collective effort.

You’re the parents. You pay for it. Deal with it.

(photo: Getty Images)