The Politics of Kids’ Birthday Parties

by Sarah Preston Gorenstein

The Politics of Kids’ Birthday Parties

Not to sound like a party pooper, but my husband and I have been trying to figure out whether or not to have a two-year-old birthday party for Preston this year. He turns two on August 29, and we plan to do something the Sunday before, but not sure what. A family-only party? A friends-only party? Both? Neither? Last year we went all out for his first birthday and rented an indoor kiddie place for both family and friends, and it was a little on the big side (i.e. expensive!). We certainly can’t have that big of a party every year for him—we’d go broke. We’re considering doing a family-only party this year at my mom’s, something low-key.

But I’m torn. Do we forego the kids’ party in favor of an adults’ party till Preston is older and has more of his own friends? Do we forego the adults’ party, and have a kids’ party with our friends and their kids (who are also his friends) and do something fun at the park, which is like his second home? Either way he’ll have fun—he’s very close with his cousins, even though they’re much older (and frankly, will he know the difference? Isn't this more for us anyway?).

We don’t have a huge group of parent friends, but a perfect amount for a decent size party (25-ish people with adults and kids I think?), people he sees pretty regularly. He’s at an age now where he loves playing with other kids, and he’s such a social little dude—on Saturday night we had some good friends over with their kids, all around the same age, and he had a blast. (See pic above.) I know he’d have fun with all his (and our) friends together for his birthday, that goes without saying. And since we live across the street from a beautiful park, it could be the perfect place to do it (weather permitting)—casual and informal but we’d still need to rent chairs, tables and such. But the question is: Do we invite all of the adults in our family, too (last year we had like 60-70 people I think). I would never want to leave anyone out, but do adults even like going to toddler parties? And if I opened this party up to everyone, do I need to rent chairs for all the adults too? Or do I not need to worry about trying to accommodate everyone?

What’s the protocal on kids’ birthday parties? I have OCD when it comes to playing host, so I know I’ll be crazy-anal about making sure everything's perfect and we are well-equipped for the number of people we invite. Last year, for example, we over-ordered on the pizza and had a ridiculous amount left over—but under-ordered on the water, and I had people coming up to me during the party asking for more water, and there just wasn’t any. I felt pretty bad about it.

There were WAY more adults than kids, and though I made it more of a kids party I did my best to try to accommodate the adults too (we went with a Cubs theme so we stocked up on Old Style beer—which is what they serve at Wrigley Field—and no one drank it!). So here we are trying to plan his second birthday, and I don’t want to make the same mistakes again. That’s why we’re considering not combining the groups, it was a little overwhelming playing host to a party that big with little kids too—it would be much more managable to keep it to one or the other, friends or family, but we don’t want to exclude anyone either. We attend our fair share of kids’ birthday parties; most of my friends with kids the same age have parties every year for their little ones, and they usually keep it to just friends/kids.

What’s the right thing to do here, when you have a big close-knit family like ours? I almost wish we went with the bigger party for his second birthday, rather than his first—he wasn’t walking OR crawling yet, so it was a lot of work for me to lug him around to make sure he spent time with everyone (60 people!), and play host all at once. This year it’ll be different since he’s walking, talking, and practically mayor of the park.

Do you have a big birthday party every year for your kids? How do you keep the invite list manageable but still celebrate with everyone you love? We are very close with our families on both sides, but it adds up to a lot of people. Hate that this becomes a political issue, but the last thing I’d want to do is not include someone important to us!

When did kids’ birthday parties get so complicated? Or maybe I'm the one over-complicating it…

Head over to to hear more about my personal adventures in Momville. And follow me on Twitter @thecosmomom, and Facebook at Sarah Preston Gorenstein. I'd love to connect with you!