Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Birthday Party Notation

I've been making a bit of a study on children's birthday parties for the last 4 or 5 years, and have come up with a few notes about the whole affair. These are as much simply notations to myself about the whole thing as a casual guide for those yet uninitiated to the birthday party madness of the preschool age, and I would love any input from the battle-scarred birthday party veterans on regional/cultural differences, ones I may have forgotten, or other opinions and takes on the madness that is an American kid's birthday party.
  • You have to invite twice as many people as you actually want to show up if you want any number of children there at all. Parents are flaky, often double schedule, and are also prone to forgetfulness. And it sucks when you promised your child that all of their friends would be there and then only 3 show up.
  • Assume siblings will be coming along, and be extra kind to those families you don't know very well and include "siblings welcome" or whatever on the invitation. It's a pain to try to find someone to watch one child while you take another to a party, but then you feel guilty and mildly embaressed when that baby is no longer a baby and eats just as much cake and expects a goodie bag like the rest of the big kid birthday guests when you're trying to be all polite because you don't know the birthday child's family at all.
  • Any food besides chips and cake is superfluous. That pasta salad and veggies with dip is for parents to eat and/or to make you feel less like you're just feeding your child and all their friends complete junk for the day. But they sure as hell aren't going to actually be EATING any of it so long as the cheese puffs and ice cream hold out.
  • All beverages should be single servings, as pouring into paper cups is a preschool hazard and spilled milk is a tragedy to the little ones. 
  • Remember the adults. Being at birthday parties is a drag if you're not close friends with the other parents, the least you can do is make sure they also get a piece of delicious cake. Also, beer in that drink cooler next to the juice boxes automatically makes you the coolest parent ever so long as the children are still young enough to be super excited by the prospect of having Capri Sun or orange soda.
  • Invite at least a few people for you. Yes it's your kid's party, and yes they get to have all their friends over, but if you aren't friends with the breeders of their friends know that it really is ok to invite a few extra guests, assuming you have a pal or two who don't mind the afternoon of pinatas and rambunctious small people and know enough to show up with an appropriately wrapped and ribboned gift. Usually the individuals willing to show up to a kid's party without kids at all are so awesome, they'll even be all about organizing and playing with the screaming hordes birthday guests.  
  • Keep the at-the-party present load minimal. Large extravagant gifts from grandparents (or very indulging parents) should be done at another time. 
  • Do not feel obligated to buy your child lots of crap presents on top of throwing them a party. Their friends will show up with plenty of new toys and packages to provide the coveted present opening experience, and the cost should come pretty close to breaking even as far as how much you spend on the party and how many presents are brought to it, assuming you're a cheap and basic sort of person like me who does a pool party by filling the plastic kiddie pool with 6" of water and letting them spray each other with the hose. And if you're not, feel free to buy my children a pony at any time.
  • Party decorations are ultimately a waste of time and money and should only be bothered with if you really want to. Kids love balloons, so you gotta have those, but shit like streamers are SO not worth the personal agony they usually entail to put up. 
  • Party favors should be cheap. Kids sure don't care about whether you tried to buy them all a few really nice personalized things or just got the super mega bag of dollar store junk to split between some goodie bags, neither should you. 
  • PiƱatas are always a huge hit, probably because they are both EXTREMELY DANGEROUS and filled with candy. Use caution, as children are really dumb inexperienced in the ways of the world (by which I mean they haven't watched enough youtube videos of this) and don't understand not to stand right in front of the blind-folded 5 year old swinging a baseball bat with every ounce of candy motivated force they can muster. [And would somebody PLEASE explain to me how beating the shit out of your favorite beloved fictional being somehow became the thing to do?? You like Elmo? That's awesome! Go beat him with this bat until his head falls off spilling his candy entrails all over the ground for you to gobble up in a vicious every-kid-for-themselves manner.]
  • All the kids really want to do at a birthday party is run around with their friends. Give them the space and lack of structure to do that, and it will be a good party. 
  • All cakes may not be created equal, but they all get eaten just as fast. Indulge the birthday child on whatever their personal cake-wants may be as much as you can, and know that it'll be eaten regardless of bling status or flavor (even if it means a cake other than chocolate..... *sniffle*)
  • Goodie bags need to be handed to the party guests as they are walking out the door. Plain and simple. 
  • There's a reason all birthday parties are 2 hours long. Remember that. And woe to ye who forgetith when thoust third hour cometh.
  • Above all, remember that the point of this is for your child to enjoy themselves. They don't care about stuff the way adults do, and the memories of having a great birthday party are created by things completely unrelated to whether or not the decorations blew down or a well-meaning relative accidentally dropped your camera in the punch bowl. Let that crap go, smile for your child, and remember that you get to have all the leftover beer as soon as the party is done know that it only comes once a year (per kid) remind yourself that you only have to this until they're 18 eat some more cake.


  1. You are a genius! I love this post.

    My least favourite part of kids' parties is when the hostess (because, yes it is always a woman) gathers the partygoers in a circle and expects the children to sit in well-behaved silence while the birthday boy/girl unwraps each present in turn. Does that ever end without at least one child (or me) in tears because they are full of sugar, excited to be with their peers and jealous that they are not getting toys? NO! Don't ruin the party mojo by focusing on the crass materialism aspect. FOCUS ON THE CAKE!!!!!

    I whole heartedly agree with the serving of beers. W00t.

    As an aside, have you ever been to Mexico? We went 2 years ago and our hotel had many Mexican guests. There was a pinata on Xmas eve. When it was cracked open all the Canadian and American kids immediately went screaming pell mell toward the candy. The Mexican kids were smarter: they waited till the man stopped swinging the stick. GENIUS!

    1. In the DC area, we don't unwrap gifts at the party. No tears, no making the kids sit forever. Not too bad.

  2. Nan told me to come here, because I'd love this post. She's right. I do! I am a Kids party veteran. The best one I ever did was hire the local ball pool play place. All the parents stayed, ALL the invited and non invited kids played. Party bags were themed and the food was served in some Cardboard barbie jeep car model thingies I found super cheap. I was mummy hero that day! My house was TIDY upon our return . That barbie loving girl turned 18 last week and had her 18th and final party I'll throw her. Let me tell you, 8th or 18, THE ONLY THING THAT'S DIFFERENT IS THE SIZE OF THE PARTY GUEST. oh and maybe the games played where they sit in a circle are based on drinking peach schnapps ( we laughed our heads off at their hard chore drinking ) !!

  3. In this area of the country, we don't open gifts at parties. I found this a little bizarre in the beginning, but now I've adjusted to it.