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10 Rules for At-Home Kid Birthday Parties

Photograph by Twenty20

Anyone who's ever thrown a kid birthday party knows this is one parenting activity that can inspire feelings of fear, excitement, rage and unbridled joy all before the first slice of cake is served. Here are my personal rules for a successful at-home bash:

Rule #1: Invite the right number of guests

Take your child's age, times it by four. Subtract three and then multiply that by the number of years you've lived in your current city. Drink a glass of wine, send an Evite to all of the kids in your child's class, even the ones you clearly wouldn't know if they passed you on the street. Silently pray that some of them will be out of town that weekend.

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Rule #2: Stay calm

When the day of the party starts with your husband accidently dropping a full pitcher of iced coffee, screaming "Fuck!" and deciding to move the refrigerator to get the kitchen floor clean, take deep, cleansing breaths and stay out of his way.

Rule #3: Get balloons

When trying to make your house look festive, you can never have enough balloons. Just don't make the same mistake as me and forget that simply blowing up balloons yourself does not make them stay up in the air.

Rule #4: Make your guests feel comfortable

If only one friend has shown up and you sense things are getting awkward, tell her you hope she knows you have other friends coming. Saying things like, "Seriously, we have other friends," can help put her at ease.

Rule #4: Decide in advance what you want to share

Take down the naked picture of yourself you have hanging in your bedroom. Although it's a great conversation starter, no good can really come of this. Tell your children they need to share their toys. If you have any of your own toys, hide them in closet to best avoid some enthusiastic toddler running into the living room holding the funny vibrating "robot."

Rule #5: Provide entertainment

Whether you facilitate party games or hire a performer, this can be crucial to your party's success. Young actors dressed as Elsa and Ana doing face painting can be fun, or perhaps an actor dressed as Kristoff, doing a racy dance routine. Actually, that's for a different type of party.

Rule #6: Serve cake promptly

Offer up huge slabs of sugar-laden desserts. This will keep small party guests happy, and, frankly, they are not your problem once they get home.

Rule #7: Screw the goody bags

Those stickers, defective bubbles and old Tootsie Rolls are going right in the garbage once the kids are asleep anyway.

Rule #8: Take notes as you open gifts

Try not to get lost in a frenzy of gift wrap and ribbon—make notations of who gave which present. Keep in mind that even with the best of efforts, there will probably be a lone Swedish wooden toy and fuck if you know who brought it.

Rule #9: Post pics on Facebook

Make sure everyone can see that you had a perfect day.

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Rule #10: Write thank-you notes

Show your appreciation with a hand-written note and make a silent promise to yourself that next year you're doing this at Chuck E. Cheese.

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