In Canada, a birthday party is a huge issue for a child who is between the ages of five and ten. Since she came to Canada three years ago, one of the excitements that my daughter is anticipating every year is her birthday party. Over the last three years, Vive has received more than 20 birthday party invitations from her friends and she did not miss a single one.
Now, her 10th birthday is approaching. She has been excited, thinking about how to plan and prepare. After attending numerous parties, she has developed sufficient knowledge and skills in planning, designing and running her own. I, who used to take full responsibility and be in charge, have gradually moved to a secondary position, to be her assistant. Planning an event like a birthday party isn’t easy; there are seven steps: first, list the people you like to invite, write, design the card and send out the card. Second, figure out the location of the party. Third, brain storming what kind of activities, programs, games to implement. Fourth, what kind of food will be provided? Fifth, how many assistants you can find to help you out, and who is doing what. Sixth, planning and shopping for the gift bags. Seventh, keep the budget in mind, and carry out the show.
Three years ago, the concept of a birthday party was new for us who had come from China. Back home there is no such thing as a birthday party for a child. Chinese hold birthday parties for the elders who are over the age of 60. However, in order to encourage her to make friends and mingle with other kids of her age, I have supported and encouraged my daughter to participate. At the same time, I have had to learn how to organize and run a party with her.
Vive has always enjoyed her friends’ birthday parties. Every time, upon returning home, she shares what happened and what fun activities she enjoyed such as making pizza, dying the hair, going to the movie theater, dress up game, treasure hunts, etc. From her stories, and experiences, I sense a part of Canadian culture: being creative, exploring ideas, making friends, and enjoying life.
There are many benefits of attending this kind of activity. For example, Vive has made many friends during the last three years and has been able to engage with all of them naturally and actively while at the same time she is able to develop many practical skills such as: designing the projects, cards, organizing events, shopping according to the budget etc. etc. She has developed applicable social skills by participating, attending her friend’s parties and by planning and running her own parties, I believe those soft skills will benefit her in the long run.
On the other hand, I see some negative effects of the birthday party phenomenon: the time and money that is consumed and many gifts are wasted. If we do the math, when one child invites 8 friends for her party, if these 8 friends attend each-other’s parties in the course of the year there are 64 gifts in total. It is certainly costly and not necessary. Birthday parties also tend to validate and encourage the ego- the “small me”, and concept of self-absorption. The birthday party which is run by the parents may be appropriate for a child from five to ten years old, but it may not be an ideal activity when the children become older.
Considering that our children have reached the age of being capable of running their own show, I wonder whether we might develop a new platform, a different kind of party for them to stage: A Friendship Party. On the one hand, this type of party is still able to maintain the positive sides of the birthday party, such as encouraging them to extend friendship, to explore, be curious, be creative, while at the same time, lead them to pay attention to other’s needs, to understand that friendship is the core value of the party. The friendship party is for the purpose of celebrating the connection, love, participation, and for having fun.
So here is my suggestion:
1. Instead of celebrating every child’s birthday, we celebrate one friendship birthday for all the children’s birthday at one time, every year.
2. Each child just brings one gift to exchange with others.
3. Location: It could be held in a local Park, a place children can play and run.
4. Time: late spring, since spring symbolizes new life, and a new beginning.
5. Parents are encouraged to participate, spend a few hours, relax, and get to know their children’s friends parents.
Parenting has never being easy; we have put much effort into cultivating our children’s character, skills, and knowledge by devoting our time and energy. As parents, we desire to bring out the best in all our children; we can certainly walk along the way with our children and children’s parents. One thing for sure about parenting is we will never feel bored. Parenting can be fun; that is the lesson that I have learned from my daughter.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA