So You Want to Drop $75,000 on a Toddler’s Backyard Birthday Party
A recent ‘New York Times’ story has three outdoor dads wondering how they would spend lavishly on a fancy bash for tots
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God bless the New York Times style section. Where else would we read about haute cuisine for dogs, naming your baby’s social media channels, or how to crochet during your daily Zoom call without pissing off coworkers?
The section’s latest banger concerns a question that is equally vexing and inconsequential. Why are megarich parents in Los Angeles spending upwards of $75,000 to throw lavish backyard birthday parties for their toddlers? The answer involves the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses dynamic that’s at play in all parenting communities, and you guessed it, these moms and dads want to crush it on Instagram. It just so happens that these parents (from Beverley Hills and Santa Monica) can and will drop tens of thousands of dollars to transform their backyards into cute firehouses, or massive ball pits, or color coordinated balloon tunnels, all in the name of ‘gram domination.
As a parent of a toddler, I recognized in this story many of the same dynamics that steer my own circle of parent-friends—we just happen to be separated from the folks in the story by two or three tax brackets. Sure, we all want our three-year-old to have a good time at a party—even though they are unlikely to retain a single memory from it. We also want our guests to be comfortable, impressed, and maybe even a little jealous of our parenting prowess.
Still, the sticker price for the parties profiled by the Times is so totally outlandish. I’ve thrown a toddler bash or two and am familiar with the economics that drive this segment of the economy. Based on my back-of-the-napkin math, you could hire a 300-person army of face painters, balloon twisters, and caricature artists, and still have plenty of cash left over to buy all the sheet cakes at your local supermarket.
Still, as a normal plebe, I can’t help but wonder how I’d use the cash for my own kid’s shindig. That’s why I posed this question to my peers: two other toddler dads who both happen to edit stories for Outside. The question: If you had a $75,000 budget for your child’s birthday party, how would you blow it?
A “Pirate Ship” Yacht
Like many kids, my nearly four-year-old son is crazy for pirates. One of the few pieces of clothing he’ll wear without adult cajoling is his pirate hat and eyepatch. We practice our pirate talk during weekly summer floats around our local reservoirs; his limited vocabulary includes “arr!” “avast!” “pieces of eight!” and, much to his mother’s chagrin, “keel-haul the filthy landlubber!”
While this pretending is all well and good, I think that, like young Jim Hawkins, it’s time for my boy to get some real sea stories. And every good sea story starts with a good ship. With that birthday party budget, I could buy a decent used bluewater cruiser yacht; #BoatLife estimates I could pick up a Gulfstar 44—a boat any modern-day buccaneer would be happy to have—for about $60,000. That still leaves me $15,000 to throw one heck of a transatlantic shindig, not counting any doubloons that might fall off the back of a Spanish galleon along the way. With two staterooms, the guest list might be a little exclusive—knowing how to sail will help get you past the velvet rope—but no one gets into piracy to make friends, anyway. —Adam Roy, executive editor, Backpacker
The World’s Coolest Camping Truck
Our almost two-year-old son is obsessed with trucks. Like, he points out every single one as we drive down the road, no matter the type, and says “truck!” except that it sounds like the expletive that rhymes with this word. Our vehicle stable is not to his liking: a beat up Subaru Legacy sedan and a first-generation Sprinter van. The Sprinter is undeniably awesome, and we have taken him and his sister on many adventures within it. But this does not matter to him: it is not a truck. He only just reluctantly started saying “van.”
So, with $75,000 for his second birthday, I would get him a truck—but not just any truck. We all know that in this day and age, you would not be able to out-truck the other kids in the neighborhood with that amount of dough. So I’d get creative and find a used 4×4 Isuzu NPR, and buy it for, say, $30,000. These medium duty commercial trucks are not that sexy when you see them delivering potatoes to your favorite restaurant, but they are when they’re transformed into dream camper, with flourishes that could be straight from the minds of Dr. Seuss and Lloyd Kahn.
I’d need some time to do this, so I’d take a three month sabbatical from work and pay myself a salary (thanks Outside!), and spend the remaining money on building out a one-of-a-kind camping truck. I’d completely renovate the box on the back with the works: solar panels, fridge, heating-cooling system, kitchen, wood stove, beds for four, etc. I’d finish the outside with some whimsical touches, like opening porthole windows and cedar shakes, and maybe an arched roof. Then we’d hit the road in time for a month-long off-road birthday trip for our little guy. And for once he’d be riding in a truck. Remember, this is all for him. —Will Taylor, Outside gear director
A Pep Talk From Wayne Gretzky
Oh, the options with that much cash. I could take my daughter and 2,500 of her best friends to the local trampoline park. Or, I could rent 375 bouncy castles and inflatable slip ‘n slides, and transform my town into an outdoor play zone for every kid in the county. But I have another idea entirely—one that’s less showy.
One of my guilty pleasures is checking out websites that allow you to book celebrity motivational speakers for your corporate retreat or college graduation. On the site AAE Speakers, I recently saw that you can hire hockey legend Wayne Gretzky for $100,000. I realize that my budget is three quarters of that, but I’m guessing The Great One would cut me a discount for a shorter appearance (my party ends at noon for nap time).
My kids’ backyard birthday would be pretty standard: bouncy castle, pin the tail on the donkey, and cake. That is, until the guest of honor showed up and took the stage, hopefully sporting a head of hockey hair and clad in a vintage Edmonton Oilers No. 99 jersey.
Like many parents, I quiver at the thought of my daughter’s internal drive becoming weakened by the contemporary traps of participation trophies and non-competitive youth sports. I want her to be the best and to strive for greatness. And what’s a better way to accomplish this than by having hockey’s all-time points leader deliver some words of inspiration to her and her nose-picking friends? Plus, I’m sure the kiddos would love to hear some of Wayne’s locker room stories about Marty McSorley and Luc Robitaille. And if those anecdotes didn’t connect with the youngsters, I could always ask Wayne to reenact the epic Saturday Night Live sketch Waikiki Hockey.
My party doesn’t need gourmet chicken fingers or diamond-encrusted party favors. I’ll let the kids leave with a signed photo of an NHL legend who still has most of his natural teeth. —Frederick Dreier, Outside articles editor