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Imagine an extravagant birthday party for a four-year-old...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

...and then get a load of this.

I hereby present you with another Macondo birthday party anecdote. (I wrote about our first experience with the local birthday party scene here.)

No matter what we end up doing for our Monster's upcoming birthday, he will seem unloved and deprived in comparison, so phew, the pressure is off!


The party

On Saturday night (6-9:30pm), I ventured out with the kids to a birthday party for one of the Monster's classmates. She turned four, just like he will this Saturday.

Aside from being too-pukey pink and with the volume turned up to Your Ears Will Buzz for the Rest of the Night, there were just oh-so-many things oh-so-very wrong with the party. For starters, it cost thousands of DOLLARS, and to spend that kind of money on a party in Argentina, you really have to try pretty hard. There were about 100 people there. It was about equally as extravagant as the bar- and bat-mitzvahs I attended way back when, and waaay more extravagant than every wedding I have ever attended (except for one, which was also pukey).


- hall rental, complete with linens and food servers in tuxes
- beer, wine and soft drinks
- junk food, finger food and use your imagination for the cake
- face painters
- inflatable jumpy trampoline thing
- two clowns, who animated the party with fun things like, 'who's smarter, the girls or the boys???'
- bubble machine
- smoke machine
- DJ
- live band
- really really loud grown-up music, including a pukey recorded version of happy birthday (no, the kids did not sing happy birthday)
- several LARGE displays of balloons and ornate pink things, all arranged very artistically
- serious loot bags, including a notebook and pencil crayons, personalized mugs and copious amounts of candy

The completely bizarre part? This is a typical birthday party here for the wealthy. A little bit extravagant in some of the details, but perfectly in line with what the rest of the parents and kids are used to. I kid you not.

They all invite all twenty-something of their classmates, along with their parents and siblings. They all blare music (grown-up music, I should add) at unhealthy, eardrum-damaging volume (and there were several very tiny babies there, too). They all dress the girls in long, uncomfortable, frilly party dresses with bows and matching hair ribbons. They all go completely overboard on the soft drinks, crappy food and amount of candy the kids bring home with them. And all the other mommies wear heels and have their best boobies on display (though I am the only one to actually flash mine, when I nurse my little Monkey).

Am I so out of touch that this is actually common in other parts of the world? Would anybody in Toronto or Buenos Aires actually send their 4-year-old daughter to a birthday party in an ankle-length frilly dress with lace and large bows (unless, perhaps, she begged to be allowed such ridiculousness)? 

The Monster does not like loud music or crowds, so he does not enjoy these events. He clings to me, cries easily, appears to be miserable, but doesn't want to leave. He enjoys little windows of fun, when the music is slightly lower and he chases after the bubbles, or other such fleeting moments.

Then, the next day he goes on and on about how much fun he had.

He pigs out on potato chips, but doesn't mind at all when I get him a glass of water while the other kids are drinking fanta, and by the next day he pretty much forgets to ask about all the candy he had taken home with him. (His little brother is going to be an entirely different story, however.)

The one big moment the Monster really cares about is the breaking of the piñata, which is why we had to stay to the very end. I have taken note and will be sure that there is a piñata at his birthday party, NOT filled with little plastic guns and swords and princess tiaras, mind you.


The post-party conversations with Macondo Papa

We have decided that the ear-drum damage is unacceptable for our little toddler and will not be bringing him to any more parties. It's actually unacceptable for all of us, but we don't want to be anti-social meanies, so we will let the Monster decide if he wants to go to his classmates' parties, and support his preference to stay away from the loudspeakers.

These encounters with 'society' - along with our discouraging explorations of the available schooling options - also serve to reinforce our Plan to leave here before it's too late. That is, to stay another 1 or 2 or 3 years, to enjoy our river, our beach, our monkeys and toucans, our long and lazy siestas, and then please let us move somewhere at least a tiny little bit progressive and cosmopolitan. Please.


Katie said...

Maybe I run in the wrong (right?) circles, but I have never been to a child's birthday party quite like that. I did attend a 1st birthday back in the U.S. that had some of the elements you mentioned, but that party was definitely not the norm. Almost every kiddie birthday party I have ever been to has been at home with the immediate family and/or some of the child's friends and classmates. I don't see why they need to be on the level of a bar/bat mitzvah or wedding. Crazy.

Lucila said...

I am from Buenos Aires and haven't seen or heard of anything so extravagant...but yes, only junk food is available, and yes, loads of family and friends come, though around 40 would be enough!, and yes, bouncy castles, hiring a place and face painting seem common enough...but without the rest: the loud music, the dresses, the mums,DJs... it is normalyy a more family oreinted affair, and more basic!
good luck with yours, I am sure the children would probably have much more fun than in this kind of parties!

macondo mama said...

Katie and Lucila, I am so happy to hear from you both that this is not typical everywhere in Argentina. Especially the dresses and the volume, which were the parts that most disturbed me.

And I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Saturday, Lucila. I never thought this kind of thing would make me so nervous...

Mom of Three said...

I don't know how you stand it. I don't know how you don't explode. My sister is wealthy and we are not. But I can't even think of how I would hold my tongue watching this stuff. Yes, there has always been people with more money than sense, but really, when you read sites like birthdayswithoutpressure.com, it's just amazing how many average-income or below parents get pressured into breaking themselves to keep up with the Joneses. I love your attitude.

macondo mama said...

Thanks for your comment, Mom of Three.

The thing is, it's not just the wealth or the scale - less wealthy people don't spend as much on their dresses and rental halls, but they still have huge parties with really loud music and frilly little princesses. This is what birthday parties are about here.

If I were to open my mouth and actually say what I was thinking about all this madness, I would just seem like a very strange gringa with completely different customs, which really, is what I am.

But I would love to know what they thought about the Monster's birthday party!

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