Just a few words on birthday parties…

August 18, 2008

 Just a few words on birthday parties…

Many of you will feel the need to stage elaborate birthday gatherings for your children, especially if you have kids between the ages of 1-7 years old. We have done so for the past 8 years and, by my calculation, we have at least 3 more years of pain to endure. In fact, Cayden’s birthday is coming up at the end of August and we have already begun the birthday planning process (BPP). It is imperative to start the BPP early due to the nature of initial desires expressed by your child. For instance, if we executed Cayden’s present requirements, he would be the Incredible Hulk and his friends (all 1,600 or so) would be dressed as the City of San Francisco. Cayden would then spend the evening toppling them over like tinker toys or bowling pins. Of course there would be cake and ice cream, his preference being that both be served while he and his crew of miscreants ride the full-sized roller coaster that, in his spare time, Dad built from scrap lumber.

Obviously, you start months out to whittle down your child’s expectations before the big day.

Most parents, when faced with birthdays, do one of two things-  they outsource the birthday party to a professional or they attempt to save some money by hosting the party at their home. My list of items below has elements applicable to both options.

Here is the formula that most parents follow:

Select (20) of your child’s closest friends.

-Please note- your child does not have 20 close friends, but when asked he can recite the names of 80 children- the likes of which have never been mentioned in your household.

-Mackinley normally invites his entire classroom plus some nameless kids he once saw at Target and one or two who drove by our home with their parents last Easter. Point being, be prepared to help construct the guest list; my advice is to invite kids based on the intrinsic value of their parents (i.e. invite your friends’ kids).

Send each child a custom-made invite ($).

-Note- even though your child will express initial interest in putting these together, their zeal will fade shortly after the first one is completed, leaving you holding the bag for the completion of the remaining 19.

-Some parents do create “no kidding” custom invites, made from scratch with all types of high speed arts and crafts paraphernalia. I curse these overachieving do-gooders because they make me feel like a crappy parent. I beg you, in the name of all that is holy, to buy the pre-packaged invites with balloons or clowns or “what not”. You’ll make your peers feel better about their own parenting choices, thus sending your approval ratings through the roof.

-Buy some thank you cards while you’re at it. It is very important to send these out immediately after your guests depart. Birthday protocol demands that the postmark be no later than 48-hours post-party execution. In my home, we thumb our noses at protocol. “Thank you” cards sit on our kitchen counter for several months until the point when it would be bad taste to send them. If any of you are interested in purchasing some slightly dated “thank you” cards for a 3, 4, 5 or 6 year old birthday party, let me know; Otherwise I’ll use the envelopes to mail in my house payments, which is historically how they are put to use.

-Gather mailing information for all attendees and place your invites in the mail. Do this even if the attendee in question lives next door to you; etiquette demands that you waste a stamp during the delivery process.

Patiently await RSVP’s from (40) disgruntled parents/legal guardians who just got told what they will be doing on their Saturday afternoon two weeks from the day they reluctantly presented the invite to their kids.

-When I receive a piece of mail inviting me to Chuck-E-Cheese on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I want to scream. Personally I would rather endure a Brazilian bikini wax than spend the afternoon dodging barefoot children and a 6-foot tall sweaty man in a rodent suit, but that’s just me.

-If you want to alleviate some parental dismay, put this simple statement at the bottom of the invite “Parents are not obligated to stay”. You just gave your peers a couple hours of free babysitting and you are officially a martyr.

If you decide to hire a professional, research and reserve a spot at one of many establishments aimed at entertaining hordes of children ($).

-The most desirable establishments have mechanical animal bands, casino-style gambling, and sport large ceiling mounted tunnel complexes that can swallow a four year old child for up to three hours. Don’t let this stress you out; there is only one way out of these establishments so your kid won’t escape, but then again, neither will you if the place catches on fire. Maybe you should have the party at home?

-You can forego professional help and a potential death trap and host the party at your home. This may or may not be the cheaper option, depending on the level of damage resulting from swarms of kids stampeding through your house.

Either way you’ll have to do some shopping:

-Visit the dollar store and purchase gobs of cheap, gimmicky toys and candy that will inevitably end up under the backseat of the family minivan 6-seconds after their child leaves the party.

-Place said items in fancy, decorated, custom baggies ($). These are known as “goodie bags”. Yes, as the party sponsor, you are obliged to reward attendees for coming to the expensive venue that you just mortgaged your home to reserve.

-Note- parents will judge you on the contents of the goodie bags. If you’re too frugal, they will resent you; if you get too elaborate and set a new “goodie bag benchmark”, they will resent you even more. Screw this up and your Saturdays will be void of birthday glee, as you will be black listed from attending follow on parties.

-Go to the local party store and purchase the following:

-Themed plates/ napkins/ balloons/ crepe paper/ flatware ($)

-Make sure the theme is age-appropriate to the birthday boy/girl. For instance, “My Little Pony” plates will make your son hate you up until his college years so disregard those great discount items placed near the cash register.

Piñata- Can’t go wrong with a Piñata, they are expensive but the inevitable slap to the groin with a rigid piece of timber puts you in the running for $10,000 dollars on America’s Funniest Home Videos- just make sure your camcorder is charged and ready to capture the painful expression on your face.

Games- Do not attempt Pin-the-Tail on the donkey! Trying to entertain the younger generation with games of yesteryear will only earn looks of disappointment and disgust.

-Remember you’re the one who bought the Nintendo for your kid when he/she was 6-months post womb; time to step up to the plate and out do the wonders of modern technology.

-This issue is easily resolved by renting a high-dollar, inflatable kingdom that the whole neighborhood can bounce around in. Your grass will eventually grow back, most likely just in time for the college graduation party.

-Oh, and by the way- no clowns, no ponies, no clowns riding ponies- the whole concept is creepy. Grown men in big floppy shoes and stubby little horses, they’ll give your kids nightmares for months so throw away your hard earned money on something that won’t make your guest wet their pants and run into the woods screaming.

Chow- This is pretty easy. Everyone knows what kids will eat. If you have that one strange child whose favorite food is pork roast in a sweet basil glaze, forgo his or her desires and order 2-3 large cheese pizzas.

-Cake and ice cream are self explanatory, just don’t get too elaborate, now is not the time to showcase your culinary skill. Go with basic chocolate cake and ice cream. The kids are so enamored by the fact that their food is on fire (birthday candles) that there is no need to impress them with what the candles are held in place by.

After purchasing all of the items to host a party you will come to the realization that YES! you can still afford that $50 bicycle that Suzy/Johnny so desperately wanted, but only if K-Mart has a low interest payment plan and you’re able to work that second job.

By now your finances are shot, so you and your spouse decide to shoot for the moon; in the hopes that you will qualify for bankruptcy.

Once your home is decorated, take a few moments to stretch, catch your breath, and hug your loved ones.

The party begins…..

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