You’d have to feel sorry for the parents of the kids who got invited to little Kai Rooney’s second birthday celebrations.
Kai, the son of Wayne and Colleen Rooney, is probably one of the few two year olds whose birthday party was organised by an event management company.
An exclusive party space was reserved at Aintree Racecourse. There were llamas, shetland ponies and staff dressed as cows. Around 100 guests helped Kai and his parents mark his second year on the planet. It’s a far cry from the kind of birthday parties his mum and dad would have been afforded growing up in working class Liverpool. Still, the Rooneys aren’t short of a pound or two and, not being victims of the recession, they’re not afraid to spend it.
But back to the guests. While many of them would have been the children of other premiership footballers no doubt a few were from relatively humble backgrounds and will now be dreading the thought of inviting Kai to the parties of their offspring.
For them, the dilemma is how to beat a hundred llamas. The answer is simple. You don’t.
It doesn’t matter how fancy your ice cream and jelly is, you won’t stand a chance.
For most of us parents in the non-millionaire population, the thought of organising a child’s birthday party stirs up feelings of delight that our little ones have reached another milestone, swiftly followed by the onset of anxiety and nausea.
As mums and dads who are raising our families in the Facebook generation, the pressure has never been greater to throw an unforgettable bash. Musical chairs just won’t cut it. Not unless the chairs have drapes over them and are in a hotel where the little ones will be treated to a disco in the function room afterwards.
What used to be a happy occasion where granny and grandad would sip their tea in the corner while the young ones drank fanta from paper cups is now a milestone minefield. Parties are the talk of the playground and the school run. Namely it’s about which are worth going to and which aren’t. This elevation of the humble birthday party is perhaps the only justification for home schooling.
If little Mary has been learning at home, she won’t even know thirty other kids to invite her party. If, on the other hand she’s taken the more traditional primary school route, not inviting her whole class is having the poor child commit social suicide before she’s even reached puberty. This is according to a friend who recently paid almost £450 for 26 girls from 6th class to have a pamper day for her daughter’s birthday.
As with most over the top crazes, what we’re experiencing here is just a lesser version of the American model. The hype around these kind of celebrations is such in the States that a well known psychologist has launched a website where parents can take a step back and look at more humble ways of ringing in another year with their children.
At his site, birthdayswithoutpressure.org, Professor Bill Doherty - an expert in family therapy - lists some of the more extreme shindigs which have taken place for kids in the states. In some cases, parents requests gifts with a certain price tag so that they can recoup what they’ve spent on the lavish do. Some children have half parties, where they celebrate being their age plus six months so that they can have two events. Some children, it’s reported, wait to see what the party bags will include before accepting an invitation.
We’re not quite at the gift list stage yet, but we may only be a few personalised invitations behind America on this one.
When it comes to this particular kind of party politics, we’ve arrived beyond the ridiculous.
Is it verging on the puritanical to suggest we take a step back? Most of us who are over 20 can legitimately say that it wasn’t like that in our day. Because, well, it wasn’t.
Bring back the Fanta and rice crispy buns before we all become a few presents short of a gift list.