There’s a wedding I really want to go to. It probably won’t happen for another 10 years or more and I don’t know the bride at all and who knows who the groom will be, but based on the high school homecoming hoopla this freshman in high school’s parents rolled out, I just know when she gets married her wedding will have to be legendary. Because when you have a catered — with chef in attendance — midnight brunch “homecoming after party” with an omelet station for a bunch of 14-year-olds who still haven’t figured out to sneeze and cough into the crook of their elbow instead of letting their respiratory and nasal fluids go free range, then come wedding time it’s going to be one heck of an event.
I could be wrong, but based on my experience most freshmen in high school are content with a case of chilled Capri Suns and a family size bag of Funyuns being tossed down into the basement. The problem is 21st-century parents have a tendency (bordering on obsession) of making a HUGE deal over every milestone or, let’s face it, steppingstone (maybe even pebble) our kids experience.
I’m not judging here. I’m guilty as charged. I’ve dropped more cash on a kid’s party than I think my parents ever did on all my birthdays combined. But I think it’s time to rein in the whole bigger-is-better thing concerning celebrating our children, because I believe it’s backfiring and not just with a kaboom. I’m talking more of a nuclear mushroom cloud kind of explosion with fallout that lingers throughout adulthood.
For example, last month at a party I saw a child heckle a balloon clown. This gentleman, in full Bozo regalia, is the Rembrandt of balloon clowns. He can take three balloons and create whatever you desire. I thought he was extraordinary and deserving of an exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins, but some of the kids at the party were unimpressed. A girl who looked to be around 7 years old didn’t like what the balloon clown made her so she hit him with the work of art, told him he “sucked” and demanded to get back in the party limo. (Yes, party limo.)
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I was aghast and told the balloon clown I was so sorry that just happened to him. He was very nonchalant about it and divulged that kids treat him like that all the time. Apparently, in the elementary school party hierarchy, balloon clowns are “lame.”
Do we have our kids on a celebration trajectory that’s so intense that by the time they’re 7 they’re jaded by balloon artistry and sullenly say the word limo with all the joy I save for folding laundry? Is this why homecoming parties for 14-year-olds have to feature chefs in attendance? And does this explain why the AVERAGE wedding in America now costs more than $30 grand? That’s a 3 with four zeroes, people!
Think about it. If every moment in your life — from successfully using the potty to reading your first chapter book — was feted to a level that back in the day was saved for a royal coronation, imagine the standard required for the pinnacle of all celebrations: a wedding.
Let’s take the 7-year-old heckler. Fast forward two decades and I’m sure she’ll need both a Pegasus and a unicorn for bridesmaids. Pencil in Captain America to be her groom and the Lucky Charms leprechaun as either the best man or officiating at the ceremony. OK, scratch the officiating (maybe Tony the Tiger will be available), the Lucky Charms guy makes a much better best man. I don’t know any leprechauns personally, but I’m betting they would be primo in the bachelor party category. Now add in the whole Disney Princess crew as the caterers. Major and minor princesses included. I’m talking about you, Rapunzel. Put that hair up and grab an apron. You’re in.
Yes, I have just listed mythical creatures, storybook characters and a cereal icon, but I’m guessing to impress this girl 20 years down the road, real life isn’t going to cut it. She’s going to need something out of this world to make her “big day” special. And I’m going to guess with confidence that regardless of the grandeur of her wedding she will still be disappointed.
I’m not advocating returning back to the time of Duncan Hines cakes and family parties only because we all know that is never going to happen. What I am suggesting is that we as parents teach our children that bigger isn’t always better. That more often than not life’s most joyous moments come from the smaller things our world has to offer. A smile from a loved one, the touch of your child’s hand in yours — so simple and subtle, yet so essential to a life well lived.