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I don't know about you, but my kindergartener has a packed
social schedule, with nearly every other Saturday marked off for a birthday
party. He's even been double booked, ducking out of one party to make an
appearance at another. The kid knows a thing or two about goodie-bag swag, is
what I'm saying.
I suppose a kid can only take so many birthday songs
sung for other kids, so many gifts bought for someone else, before demanding
some reciprocity. So the last few weeks have been spent
planning/stressing/hosting a gaggle of children under a canopy of loose
balloons and hushed awkwardness. It's a reminder of why birthday parties are only
fun for the kids, and sometimes not even. There are hurt feelings and sugar crashes,
maybe even a physical altercation over who was playing with what first.
And yet we continue to do it, weekend after next, for the
joyful celebration and happy memories (just kidding, we do it for the birthday
cake). We're all thinking the same things, though.
1.No parent wants to go, and no parent wants
you to come.
It's not personal. You seem perfectly
lovely at school pick-up, and given a more comfortable atmosphere (somewhere
without a head-splitting noise volume, and a few less hollers for "MOMMY") maybe
we could have a real conversation. But birthday parties are awkward, across the
board. After huddling together with parents we barely know, making chitchat, silently
pleading that our kid isn't the one
who collapses into a sugar-induced heap of tears or punches someone in the
throat, we all leave grateful that it's over, host and guests alike.
Especially for the socially awkward amongst us, birthday parties are something
2.Half the guest list will RSVP the night
When it comes to kids' birthday parties, RSVP basically means nothing. Accept it.
And then profusely apologize, as if they
were the only one. A handful won't respond at all, as if we won't prepare a
goodie bag and account for pizza just in
case you phone in a last-minute response. At least one will cancel the day
of, happens every time. When it comes to kids' birthday parties, RSVP basically
means nothing. Accept it.
3.Siblings will come. Prepare for it.
Don't act surprised when a car unloads with
four kids under 5, even though you only invited the one. Don't you dare
mentally count the pizza slices and goodie bags in your head; you were waiting
for this moment. You've got this.
4.The activities you have planned actually
Musical chairs sounds fun until the first
losing kid erupts into tears, elbowing kids off their seats. Scavenger hunts
seem easy, until one older sibling goes on a prize-finding bender and refuses
to share his winnings. If you can make it through two hours without saying,
THAT'S IT, EVERYONE IN A CIRCLE AND SIT ON YOUR HANDS, then congratulations.
5.Pinterest is for parents, not kids.
No kid cares about the themed food, Pinterest-inspired
tablescape or décor. All of those printable tags and DIY touches? Just admit it, that's for the camera (or maybe for other moms), not the kids. Kids want
three things: sugar, loose balloons and space to run mad. Call it a day,
folks. Let's not overthink things.
6.Piñatas are the worst idea ever, stop it
Every time a parent emerges with a bat and
the promise of candy, breaths catch in the air. Looks are exchanged around the
room, silently saying, "Brace for catastrophe." If the kids are strong enough
to do some serious damage to the furniture, or to another kid's skull, retire
the piñata. The other parents thank you.
7.Goodie bags never make it out of the car.
So don't try so hard.
8.No one knows what to do about the gifts.
Do we open the presents? Do we not open presents?
Do we avoid making eye contact with the presents?
9.We wish there was booze, too.
We'd all like a way to numb the
awkwardness, trust me. So for now
we'll just knowingly nod over our diet sodas. 53 minutes to go…
Yes they're exhausting and awkward and, if
we're being honest, way too expensive, but we'll still show up to the parties,
gift in hand. We'll still send out invitations, even if we "have to" invite the
entire class. We'll go through the motions and get through the day, for our kids.