Outrageous Kid Parties

Money Smart Kids

Outrageous Kid Parties

The new show about over-the-top birthdays for children demonstrates that some parents' spending on their kids has gone too far.

I have to confess that when I heard about a new show called Outrageous Kid Parties promoted on The Learning Channel, my only thought was ick. I had no interest in watching it or writing about it. What could I say that I, and others, haven’t said plenty of times before about why it’s a bad idea for doting parents to spoil their kids with extravagant spending? But after several people asked what I thought about the show, I reluctantly tuned in to a couple of episodes. Both of them confirmed my initial reaction -- and gave new meaning to the expression over the top.

Several years ago a father complained to me that kids’ birthday parties had gotten out of hand. “First clowns, then ponies, and now my son has been invited to a party with a merry-go-round on the lawn,” he said. What would this dad think of a circus-themed party that had not only clowns but also aerial acts and a camel? And the obligatory pony was a gift for Carson, 8, and his sister Jasmine, 7, the guests of honor.

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Or how about a rock-star party at which the Ferris wheel and bouncy house were just sideshows compared with the Hummer limo, the rock band and the red carpet that Aniston, the 8-year-old birthday girl, strutted down -- after her $200 spa treatment and facial and a $250 lesson in how to work the runway.

The tab for each of these parties was a staggering $30,000. But just as disturbing as the price tag was how eagerly and unselfconsciously each of the little girls basked in the role of diva. “I’m spoiled rotten,” declared Jasmine.


Meanwhile, their big brothers provided a breath of fresh air. “We are going to be bankrupt after this par-tay,” observed Aniston’s brother, Connor. Told that he had to wear a ringmaster’s costume to his party, Carson pronounced the idea “d-u-m-b, dumb.”

Which leads to the obvious question: What were these parents thinking? They’re happy to tell all of us viewers: “I want to make a statement,” said Cindy, Aniston’s mother (who planned the event while her husband was out of town on business). “Whatever she wants, she’s going to get.” Meanwhile, Christina, the mother of Jasmine and Carson, announced, “I will do anything for my kids.”

Frankly, I’ve always been skeptical of that rationale. Parents who throw $30,000 birthday parties aren’t doing it for their kids, they’re doing it for themselves. And these mothers all but acknowledged that. “When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be on the red carpet,” said Cindy, who thinks Aniston might be a young Miley (she isn’t). “Seeing my daughter on stage fulfilled my dream.”

Said Christina, “It makes me remember how much fun I had whenever I went to the circus as a kid.” But her kids didn’t seem to be having that much fun. After spending $30,000, she had to give them each a $1 bribe to get them to smile and wave to their 350 guests when they arrived in a fire truck. Pushed out of the spotlight by his sister, Carson couldn’t even muster a smile when presented with the pony. “First we have to share a party, then we have to share a gift,” he grumbled.

Jasmine saw things differently. “The party was mostly for me,” she announced. And the pony? “Mine, mine, mine.”

Many happy returns.

Follow Janet’s updates at www.twitter.com/JanetBodnar.