I just attended an event, which was held at an upscale restaurant, with more than 100 guests in attendance, a full open bar and cocktail hour before a sit down dinner, Viennese dessert table, table centerpieces, dancing with DJ and guest favors. No, it wasn’t a wedding, it wasn’t a 50th anniversary party–it was a first communion celebration. That’s right–all this for a 7-year-old. I forgot to mention the professional face painter who created beautiful and dramatic artwork of the little tots’ faces. My own first communion "party" (as well as any others I’ve attended) was a gathering of family and a few close friends back at the house where Mom made buffet style food and guests brought a side dish.
Am I the only person who thinks this elaborate celebration was a bit excessive? I realize this is happening more and more. MTV has a show that highlights Sweet Sixteen parties, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more, parents are buying their teens expensive luxury or sports cars when they first get their driver’s license and birthday or holiday presents keep getting more outrageous (one of my daughter’s friends got a pair of $600 boots!). We all want our kids to have things we weren’t able to ourselves, but even if you CAN afford it, is it really in the best interest of the child??
My concern is the expectations we might be setting for our children. Are we teaching them the value of things and the effort that goes into obtaining them by simply indulging their every whim? My parents told me if I wanted a car I had to pay for it myself. I spent my senior year in high school working after school at a retirement home where I served dinner to the residents. Every pay check went directly into my savings account. At the end of the year my father checked to see what I had saved. He then told me he’d match it dollar for dollar and I could look for a car within that price range. All along my parents could have afforded to buy me a car, but they wanted me to work for it. They were right–I did respect that car a lot more than if it had been handed to me. I knew how much work had gone into saving for it.
I can’t help but wonder about the little girl who had the incredible first communion party. I’m sure I will attend an even more spectacular event when she makes her confirmation and again on her Sweet Sixteen. I can only imagine what her wedding will be like. But, when she grows up what happens when she leaves her parents and starts her own life? Will she accept that her beginner’s salary can only purchase so much? Will she marry a man for love or will she look for what kind of financial security he can provide? Again–what future expectations are her parents setting by their actions today?
Yes, my first communion celebration, as is the case with most kids, happened at home, with a few friends and my cousins all playing tag in the backyard. We enjoyed home cooking and feasted on cake and ice cream. But you know what–I’ll bet we had just as good a time as those kids with the expensive cuisine and DJ. The great thing about being a kid is that it doesn’t take much to be happy and content.