Goodbye to Birthday Parties

Read about being a mother of 12 as our resident 'Supermom' shares her wise parenting advice.

Being the mother of 12 kids, I've learned to spot the signs that my child is getting too old for birthday parties. This happens at around the age of 9 years. My child will come to me and say, "This year I think I'm going to have a birthday party, but next year I'll be too old. It would look weird for me to have a party, then."

Putting out tentative feelers to his friends

The words 'I think' are pivotal in this conversation. This means that your child is going to be putting out tentative feelers to his friends. He wants to have a birthday party, but he's afraid it will be deemed too babyish by his peers. He's going to talk around the issue to his friends and weigh their input.

Appropriate lecture material?

I've learned to give my children the space they need to make such decisions. There's no point in giving my children lectures on why it doesn't matter what others think and they should just do what they feel is right. It isn't appropriate lecture material for a child this age. Children learn about societal norms by feeling their emotional pulse in relation to that of their friends. It's only later in life that children can begin to follow the beat of a different drummer, after they've learned the original beat of the drummer that everyone else follows.

In fact, it's very painful for your child to give up the better aspects of his childhood, and birthday parties figure large on the list of glorious childhood pastimes. In one sense, getting older means getting to do things he wasn't allowed to do at a younger age, such as crossing the street, or going to play at a friend's house after school without needing moms to arrange the logistics of a playdate. On the other hand, there's always a trade off. Giving up birthday parties means giving up a fun activity, in which your child was the central, attention-getting figure.

It's painful to be a bystander to your child's pain at giving up something you would be glad to provide, but it isn't helpful for you to persuade him to continue. A better tactic, starting with the time he first expresses his insecurity about continuing to party, is to reassure him by offering to fund a pizza party at the local pizzeria for just him and a few good friends when he feels ready to drop the home parties.