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In the game of Life each player is charged $500 every time another player has a baby. I used to think that was excessive. I couldn’t think of anyone in real life I loved enough to send $500 worth of gifts to for successfully reproducing. That and I was a child.

The smallest amount of money in the game came in pale yellow bills with the number 500 printed all over them. That was more money than I had ever seen at that age. For all I knew, large amounts of cash did come in a rainbow of pastel colors. I still wouldn’t know. My pockets hold a lot of lint.

Time passed by and I grew up. I still wouldn’t spend $500 celebrating a child’s entrance into this world. But what the game of Life didn’t explain was that $500 is not for the babies. It’s not a lump sum paid to the parents, no matter how much you’re indebted to them. That money is actually a small percentage of what parents pay other parents over the course of a child’s life in birthday parties.

Last year we threw our last birthday party. I have expensive taste and have a tendency to go over the top with my planning. I was tired of shelling out a couple hundred in decorations, party favors, and food. More than anything I was tired of spoiling my daughter this way. It didn’t seem fair to her brothers that they were born in the summer and had never had a successful guest list for a party.

After putting so much into planning these parties, and getting through all the noise, we were left with a mountain of toys. More toys than any child needs in a lifetime, much less for one birthday. So I have decided we’re done with parties.

The problem is my kids’ friends are not finished with parties. I can control what comes into my house but I cannot control the obligatory gifts going out. Unless I boycott birthday parties altogether. Which, believe me, I am seriously thinking of doing. I just haven’t figured out how to RSVP that I’m sick of the social obligation otherwise known as birthday parties.

Every other day an invitation comes home from school, shows up in my inbox, or is taped to the front door. Three kids with a myriad of friends. You do the math.

The nice part about the birthday parties for school friends is a large percentage of them are on Sunday. My kids don’t even bat an eye. They hand me the invitation and say, “It’s on Sunday so I’m not going.” Somehow I always expected it to be more of a fight to have friends not of our religious faith. So far it’s not an issue at all.

The problem is the parties held on Saturday. For best friends. Or church friends. It’s too hard to say no. So off to the store we trot for another gift. Another Saturday is shot with a middle of the day birthday party. Don’t people realize that Saturday is the only day my family is home together? Saturdays are sacred!

Next Saturday I don’t get to see my family. Gavin has a Scout activity in the morning. As soon as that’s over Gwen has a birthday party. Before that’s over Parker has a birthday party. I have a baptism to attend that afternoon before Parker is done with his party. Ugh. When does it end?

I’m starting to wish real life was more like the game of Life. I would happily hand over $500 for every child born. Get it over with all at once.

Congratulations! Here’s a small gift. Don’t spend it all in one place. If we hang out over the course of your child’s life, great. If not, you can still enjoy the cash.

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