Reporting Tracy Kornet
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Remember what birthday parties looked like when you were a kid? It was probably a rather small gathering at home or in a park, right? But that was then, and this is now! The question has become: how far will some parents go to celebrate their kid’s birthday? And is it ever just too much?
For Dallas moms Cynthia Hayes and Alicia Duncan, life revolves around their children. “They are the greatest kids, and they make life easy,” Hayes said.
“I love just doing anything and everything for him,” Duncan said of her son Aydin. And for the last six months, her life has been full of party planning for Aydin’s 5th birthday. “It’s going to be Aydin’s Big 5 Big Top Birthday Bash,” she explained. “The circus is coming to our town.”
Duncan has put together an extreme birthday party on a budget, creating a do-it-yourself circus midway right in her own backyard. “It’s going to be like you’re walking into a big top,” she said. “It’s going to be carnival games, circus games.” Nearly a dozen different games to be exact, and that goes along with prizes, bounce houses, popcorn, hot dogs, Pinkberry Yogurt and even a juggling clown.
Duncan spent just under $1,000 on the party. But some people believe that extreme parties — like this one for Aydin — put unnecessary pressure on other parents to do the same thing. Even Duncan admits that some of her friends think she is going just a little overboard. “I’ve even had some moms mention that they don’t want to bring their kids to my kid’s party because they’re feeling like they’ll be inadequate parents after this,” Duncan said.
Psychologist Dr. Sylvia Gearing said that parents should not feel bad if they do not throw huge parties. She said that, as long as you do something fun that the child enjoys, that is all you need for a successful birthday party. “We already live in a culture in which children think that it’s all about them,” Gearing said. “There is not enough emotional accountability.”
Gearing is also concerned that grandiose parties can often do more harm than good, and can cloud a child’s view about what is expected in life. “He’s always going to have this bar that’s set too high that he can never meet,” she said.
In the Hayes family, the extreme birthday party is a first for daughter Natalie’s 13th birthday. “Parties like these, though, are also a reward,” explained Hayes. “This is not every birthday.”
“I’m kind of excited because I’ve never had a big party like this before,” Natalie said. And neither has anyone else. Hayes spent thousands of dollars to celebrate Natalie’s love of dance. From glow-in-the-dark furniture to a dance floor that lights up using hidden LED lights — and a cake that looks just like the dance floor — Hayes spared no expense.
“It’s just about having a great party and doing things that make sense,” said Carol Abrams, owner of Amazing Events, who put together the party for the Hayes family. Abrams said that these extreme parties are happening more often as people search for more creative ways to celebrate. “They like to try different things,” she said. “They don’t like to do the same things that everybody’s doing.”
“We’ve got a dance troop coming in,” explained Hayes. “They’re going to break out into dance moves and then open the door and everyone’s going to see the ballroom,” Natalie continued.
And while these lavish events may be extremely fun, Gearing said that, in these cases, sometimes less is more. “Just because you can produce this kind of party doesn’t mean it’s good for your child,” she said. “It’s like, would you give you child three-dozen donuts? No, it’s too much.”
Just don’t tell that to Duncan. She already has ideas for her son’s birthday party next year.
Meanwhile, Gearing said that your kid’s party should not be a competition with other parents. The best way to check yourself, Gearing said, is to make sure your child’s interests and input come before yours. In Hayes’ case, Natalie planned a good portion of her party herself, and had full veto power on other choices.
If you are looking to plan your own extreme birthday party, below is a list of the vendors used in creating Natalie’s party.