Have you ever been to an over the top fancy birthday party of a five-year-old in our beloved capital? I think we have all been there, done that too often, so no judgments. We attend these Instagram-worthy lavish celebrations where finger food is served on silver platters, a three-tier cake stands tall, elaborate goody bags, and live entertainment is provided to all. The sad part is that even our children throw a tantrum, if the goodie bags fall short of the general standards set for the goodies in that bag. We attend these birthdays and sometimes host them too. We enter beautiful drawing rooms where the air is filled with the fragrance of Chanel 5 and Oudhs worn by most mothers and ourselves too. The Gucci and LV display of handbags and shoes has become a new ‘sophisticated’ class. The high heels, the Filipinos huddled around the bouncy castle with children as their caregivers, are all a perfect exuberance of the ‘rich’ atmosphere. What reads as a wedding reception actually turns out to be a child’s 5th birthday party.

On the other hand, if you attend birthday parties aboard, or have attended your own birthday party two decades ago in the same city, you will find a huge difference between now and then. Even the wealthiest of parents would be dressed up casually and ready to spend the day with the kids and family friends. Later, they would help themselves to pizzas, chana chaat, fries and a homemade cake or at the most, a black forest from the nearest bakery.

I miss cosy birthdays when they were celebrated without a social statement, without a stylistic approach and social media pressures. Yes, believe it or not, social media is making it worse. Just open Pinterest or Google alone, and you will find themed party ideas like Elsa, a pop star party, whatever your child is into. Everything is about 3-D art, upscale décor, fairy tales and next level details. Once we hold these birthday bashes, we should consider other parents too. Parents who may be very well to do, (or not) but do not think of spending over a certain budget on a child’s birthday, because isn’t it all about priorities at the end of the day? One may want to spend hundreds of thousands on birthdays, but then others may want to save the same for quality travelling or after-school activities. I say “no judgments” because we have those families too, who go overboard with birthdays simply because they want to do a collective celebration for two or three of their kids. But, I am also a firm believer in accessibility, keeping things fun, simple and memorable. However, as more families jump on the birthday extravaganza bandwagon, party planners are giving them even pricier options. In fact, someone should come up with modest birthday packages so everyone can enjoy the birthday blowout at affordable rates.

Why complicate our children’s lives by making these innocent celebrations into statement pieces?

For my son’s fourth birthday, I admit I went for a slightly expensive cake, but I kept everything else simple and meaningful so he remembers it as “his BIG day,” not his mummy’s friends chatting away about the latest trends, calorie counts, having found the perfect house help, or having to deal with separation anxiety due to a trusted house help’s resignation. We set up a bouncy castle for the birthday boy’s friends, tables with clay pots to paint on, play dough, kinetic sand, some papers and paint brushes for creative indulgence. It was a much loved celebration, with food we all love and it was a wrap after two to three hours. I do not mean to undervalue anyone’s take on birthday celebrations, but only wish to create awareness about these unnecessary mushrooming social dilemmas.

Let birthdays be about jumping up and down, singing, dancing, friends, cake and goodie bags. I can’t afford to omit this one, but even this can be fun yet minimalistic.

Last but not the least, having worked so hard to plan a perfect day and celebration for your little one, remember to relax and enjoy the day yourself and you can only do that, if you do not give in to these social pressures. I say this, because I had to tell myself this multiple times.

Having grown up in a culture where I was taught to over-care for guests, I have a hard time not stressing when I host an event. So you are not alone when trying to plan a fun yet frugal birthday bash.

Children’s brains are new and pliable; they are primed to learn about the world as we show it to them. So let us make fun memories accessible and bedazzle our children with the simpler joys of life.

-The writer is an Islamabad based

barrister at law and an entrepreneur