Cake and Comrades

If Pinterest is to be believed, we might be raising children who expect a real live unicorn to come to their next birthday party.

Do they even know how much a live unicorn costs? Imagine the hours it will take to source one.

Parents of the world, let’s collectively admit to ourselves that children’s birthday parties have gotten out of hand. Just because Kate Middleton’s parents built an empire out of selling party packages doesn’t mean we all have to make our children into princesses.

Fortunately, here in our special corner of the globe, the extravagant child birthday party phenomenon hasn’t quite taken hold. Children of the Yukon have a very sensible expectation of parties.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the birthday of 9-year old Nadia at a very popular party venue, a gymnastics club. In a straw poll of attendees, the best things about birthday parties are, in this order: 1. friends, 2. cake, 3. games, and 4. sleepovers – which are really a subset of “friends”.

When asked about the best party he ever went to, Oren said, “I went to a canoe party once and that was really a good party.” Did you like the canoeing? “I liked being with my friends. And the cake.” Testimonial number one.

I confess, I’ve been guilty of over planning my children’s birthday parties. We had a scavenger hunt at my younger daughter’s last party. When I asked her what she liked about it, she said, “All our friends were there.” Testimonial number two.

As for the cake, it’s holding its own against the gluten-free movement. Kids love cake, whether it’s a Duncan Hines box cake or a gourmet designer cake in the shape of a unicorn.

So don’t be like my mother, who will never forget the Barbie cake she made for my sister’s seventh birthday, and – more memorably – that my sister cried when she saw it. Since there was an actual real Barbie encased in cake, it could as easily have resulted in nightmares for weeks rather than a few tears.

If you have the ability to do fancy cakes, fill your boots, but understand that it will earn you a mere five minutes of social media fame and possibly 45 years of bitterness. If your decorating skills consist of watching Cake Wars on TV, get yourself to the grocery store, where someone with better handwriting than you will customize a sheet cake to feed 24.

Or, consider cake alternatives like ice cream sundaes, or Kombucha.

Beyond friends and cake, there’s games and activities, neither of which have to be expensive or difficult.

Able mom Katy recommends at least one game or activity that involves throwing or hitting things. Piñatas remain a hit. There is surprising hilarity to watching a grown man blindfolded swinging a broomstick.

Crafts are popular with many children, and the take-home craft is a great substitute for goody bags (don’t even get me started on those). Choose something that’s easy to set up and can be done by kids of all abilities since it’s poor form to make children cry at birthday parties. Plan some flex time into a party, which can increase as kids get older.

A word on gifts. In my humble experience, children and adults alike enjoy a party more where gifts are not involved. Specify “no gifts please” and to avoid the dreaded gift-opening from hijacking the party.

Twoonie parties are popular in Whitehorse. Every guest brings two dollars: half the money goes to the birthday child and the other half donated to the child’s charity of choice.

Finally, let’s be honest, birthday parties are really about celebrating what an awesome job you’ve done at getting your child to another year, so at minimum, enjoy some cake, give yourself a pat on the back and go take a spin on the unicorn.

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