Birthday Party? - Do it as you please!11th Jan 16 | Family
It's my son's birthday this week and as we have some friends who were born in January too, we are entering busy birthday party season.
I am looking forward to it, although I am also familiar with all the uncertainties which can make an innocent children's party stressful. Of course it's about our children having a great time and celebrating together. But it is also about being exposed as a parent to other parents, who as we know, are sometimes harsh judges of our choices (or maybe we only think they are?).
It’s normal to be preoccupied about being accepted by the group and it's also natural that the group is expecting us to conform to its norms and standards of doing things. Unfortunately it's also the case, that conformity kills creativity and even threatens our identity.
Group norms can be insensible, irrational, stupid. We might disagree with them completely and obeying them might hurt us. And yet, we still go with the group flow, because we want to be accepted and we want the same for our children.
This reminds me of an article I read in the Irish Times about birthday party etiquette.
It answers in detail what is an accepted way of buying presents, making a guest list, serving sandwiches, preparing goody bags, etc.
It is the brightest example of social pressure which glorifies group obedience and doesn't allow for any creativity. It fuels anxieties and supports the phantasy world of the group which benefits from all the members being exactly the same.
The imaginary good coming from this homogeneous world would be lack of conflict, lack of confrontation, eternal peace and happiness.
At first glance the article looks as a helpful guide through the common doubts I mentioned above. But when you read through it, you realize that it creates a strange world in which all parents and children want exactly the same environment to celebrate, eat and enjoy the same things and expect others to do what the majority does.
There is a real thread which can be read between the words: If you don't obey the etiquette, you become an outcast, a weirdo, someone who doesn't deserve to be part of the clan.
Parents are surrounded by this kind of 'do and do not' guidelines, which are doing more harm than good, because they make us forget about the most obvious truth: we are adults, able to think independently and perfectly capable of making our own decisions regarding our children and ourselves.
It's important to remember that the fear of being rejected is fuelled by the phantasy, that we all should be the same. We are all different and that's all right. We can host the party which doesn't obey any etiquette and we will most likely be appreciated for being authentic and honest.
Agata lives in Galway, she is a mum of two children and author of blog Balancing Parents.com She promotes creative and confident parenting. She is a psychologist, with experience of working as a personal skills trainer and academic teacher. Find her on Twitter @agata4parents