Princess parties costing you the Crown jewels?

Our parenting columnist, Kristyl Clark, wonders exactly when throwing children's birthday parties became a competitive sport

Princess parties costing you the Crown jewels?

I can still recall the exact moment I realized I had become one of them.

Exhausted from a late night of decorating, prepping finger food and crafting hand-made bows for the goody bags — all the while consoling a teething toddler on my hip — I was ready to cry into my cocktail.

However, I figured that wouldn’t exactly be polite. After all, the tray of welcome spirits – each adorned with a fresh fruit slice and tropical umbrella were intended for our adult party guests, not my salty tears.

Those sporting diapers and holding sippy cups, like our little birthday girl, Molly, would enjoy a sugar-free, organic punch and frolic on the enormous inflatable bouncy castle that had enveloped most of the backyard.

It was bad enough we had blown our Kraft Dinner budget on a champagne fête that our daughter wouldn’t remember.

And for what? It’s not like she’ll ever look back in pictures and be upset because her decor scheme didn’t match the fondant icing on her homemade three-tiered princess cake with  raspberry purée filling. Would she really care that the cups ordered online weren’t an exact match to the dollar-store plates daddy brought home on a whim?

Instead of having a meltdown before the first guest arrived, I took a wee swig, a deep breath and swore I’d never go to such extreme lengths to throw my baby the ‘perfect’ party ever again.

And then she turned four.

I found myself, once more, in the same frenzy this summer as I tried to create a royal extravaganza for my pint-size princess. This time around, I stayed within our budget —Dollar Store all the way, baby,  and no special elixirs for the parents.

I thought I did a pretty darn good job with the soiree, but that sense of satisfaction was fleeting.

A month later we attended another princess party that was hosted by an actual ‘real’ live princess. Both the children and the adults were in complete awe of this enchantress, who sang as sweet as the dickey birds,  pranced gaily around the room and dazzled guests with pixie dust pulled from her little bag of tricks.

As we left the party, Molly seemed a little distraught.

“Why didn’t I get a princess at my princess party,” she asked, as tears began to stream down her pixie-dust speckled cheeks.

Other than fill her in on our modest financial situation, which, between you and me is no fairy tale, I really wasn’t sure what to say. Instead, I muttered ‘maybe next year,” all the while hoping she’d forget about it.

As I drove home, I began thinking about children’s birthday parties and how they’ve become so elaborate in the past decade.

Once upon a time — not all that long ago — a trip to the roller rink, swimming pool or a small get-together at home were typical party scenes.

Boy, have things changed. Even the calmest, most level-headed parent can find themselves quickly turning into an ego-maniac when they get into party-planning mode – myself included.

Nowadays, there are princesses, pirates and superheroes who make house calls at a whopping $200 a pop, private backyard pony rides, even trips to the spa so your youngster and her friends can indulge in a mani/pedi session.

With extravagant themes and venues, take-home loot that rivals Hollywood swag bags and expensive gifts, there’s no denying that the birthday business is booming.

And for those who need a little ‘pinspiration’ to help make their child’s party more memorable than the Joneses’, one can wade through endless decorating ideas, recipes and tips on Pinterest. Warning: you may feel an alarming sense of inadequacy when you realize you’ll probably never live up to the picture-perfect standards on this virtual vision board. The anxiety-inducing photos of perfect cupcakes and DIY crafts will haunt and taunt you.

While I’m certainly not knocking any moms or dads who do step up to the party planning plate and take a swing at throwing an epic birthday, this mom is going to continue to fight tooth and nail to stay out of the game.

Sure, it’s much easier said than done, but with two pint-size princesses in our party of four, there’s no chance of a happily ever after if we continue to blow our budget year-after-year on parties. And speaking of story book endings, I shudder to think how elaborate weddings will have become when and if our girls take a walk down the aisle. If that’s the case, I’d better look into becoming a party princess on the side and start saving.

I think I could pull off Snow White; after all, I’ve got the pale complexion and already spend my days with little people nipping at my heels.

Kristyl Clark is a stay-at-home-mom who writes monthly for the Langley Times and is the founder of the family blogazine, She’s a Valley Mom (