The $50,000 Kiddie Birthday Party

Limos. Petting zoos. Did we mention spa treatments? When it comes to their kids’ birthdays, status-seeking Philly parents now say it’s their party, and they’ll spend what they want to.

“Kids are so damn precious, you want to celebrate them with everything you have,” says one Main Line mom who swears she’d hire Starr Events for her four-year-old’s next party — if only her husband would let her. “Why do you have to go so over-the-top?” he asks her every year. “You go to one party and the favor is $12. You go to another, and the favor is 50 cents. Why do you have to be the schmuck that does the $12?”

Her response is simple: Because we can. They waited to have kids until they were older, had built their careers, and now they have the income to do things the way they want to — well, the way she wants to. Why not spend it on the kids? It’s better than spending it on herself, right? 

Lafayette Hill’s Jamie Joffe is motivated by something a bit more primal: guilt.

“When you’re a working mom living in a more affluent area, you try and compensate for not always being around,” admits the publicist. “I have my own business. I work a lot. And so I’m going to throw this kid a killer party.” When her son turned 10 in January, she spent several thousand bucks treating 20 kids to a ride in a Hummer limo up to Spring Mountain in the Poconos, where they went tubing for the day. On the way back, everybody got $15 iTunes cards to take home as favors. “My husband and I do our thing. We’re not out of control,” she says. She pauses, then adds, “I hope we’re not out of control. But that [party] was totally out of control.”

Joffe certainly didn’t have parties like that when she was a kid. “I always wished I had parents who made a big deal about parties,” she says. 

Tiffany Gabbay is the flip side of that coin: She had outrageous parties as a kid. Ponies. Petting zoos. When she was nine, her parents sent her and her friends in a limo to the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, where they had a suite, and candy served to them on silver platters. “I want to pass that on to my daughter,” she says.

The intention may be good, says Center City psychologist and author B. Janet Hibbs, “but this has nothing to do with the kids and what they want. It has to do with the parents’ needs.” To give your kids what you had, what you didn’t have, what you wish you’d had. To assuage your guilt. To prove that you have money. To make sure everyone knows you love your kids, not 50 cents’ worth, but $12 worth. Or $13,000 worth.

Whom, then, is the party for?

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  • Tenley

    I recognize that Philadelphia Magazine is not exactly written for the vast majority of Philadelphia residents. But giving the impression that children’s birthday parties costing thousands of dollars are somehow “the norm,” and that even struggling parents are doing what they can to live up to (or down to) this outrageous display of narcissism, only feeds the misperception at the same time it proves how drastic the economic divide really is between the wealthy few and the working-class many. You know what I do for my son’s party? I bake a cake, invite about a dozen of his friends, and have them play at my house or a park for a couple of hours. You know what he’ll get for his 16th birthday? A chance to get a job after school, so he can save up to buy himself a used car. Even if my salary quadrupled, I still would stick to my principles (remember those?) — money can buy entertainment, but it can’t buy love.

  • Jimmy

    These momo kids are going to be just like you know whatever like like like their idiot parents. 13 grand to spend on a bday party….makes me throw up. You better get a suite at the Union game…
    Unheard of when I was growing up and I’m not that old. But, that’s why rich ass couples cheat on each other and buys whatever to make them feel better. So enjoy your fake smiles and go fck yourselves

  • Kay

    Spring Mountain in the Poconos? Surprised this was not known, and obviously not researched (what else wasn’t verified in this ‘story’?). There are two references to it. It’s right in Montgomery County.

  • Babymama ♡♥♡♥

    Wow!!!! A lot of angry comments. Calm down people. Dang…who cares what people spend on their kids birthday parties. Its their money and their kids. I am not rich by any means but I love having super fun parties for my kids. Especially when I don’t have to clean up( ;-) lol) so I usually rent out a place like brunswick zone or Sahara Sam’s. Its not crazy expensive its affordable and tons of fun. The point behind having cool parties is making your child feel extra special on their birthday. If people do it for other reasons thats their problem and you should feel sad for their kids not get your undies in a bunch. You can’t buy happiness but you can’t find happiness being cruel or judging people either. Peace out and don’t forget to throw your children at least a handful of cool parties. Life is short and so is childhood and every kid deserves to feel extra special on their bdays even if you make certain they know their loved every day.