Party Pooper

So this weekend I caved. I took Helen to a child's birthday party.

I know, I know. I had sort of hoped that my year-long boycott would somehow start a trend and that people would finally give up trying to entertain toddlers with a $200 party place and goody bags and an elaborate cake and a one present minimum.

But for some strange reason, a child's birthday seems to have ballooned into an entire industry. Go figure.

Since we're at the new daycare, my reasoning for accepting just this once seemed sound: jump into the fray with an entirely new clique of parents. Meet people. Be social. You know - a good time to give this gig a second chance.

Instead, I was reminded of just how much THIS IS NOT MY GIG.

The party child sleeps on a mat next to Helen's at daycare, so they're friends. The parents were perfectly nice and took a moment to come over and introduce themselves to me. They said really sweet things about Helen, which I appreciated. But folks, I'm one of the first parents to drop off in the morning, and one of the last to pick up at night. So I don't know any of the kids, and I really don't know the parents. I think everyone else must have assumed I was family, because I had to walk up and talk to people to get more than a passing smile. And I couldn't reciprocate with nice things about their children, except "Oh, Helen talks about him all the time," while I'm thinking of David Spade from SNL, "And you are ...?"

The party took place at one of those indoor inflatable jump places, which sounded like a great way to wear Helen out on a weekend afternoon. But because of the blowers and the blaring party music, it ended up being noisier than the bars I remember from my single days. It was difficult to talk to anyone unless you were standing right next to them. So I spent most of my time holding Alice and watching Helen bounce. I think she had a ball - she ran around a lot, and she seemed to know the kids there. But to me, nothing beats the old-fashioned playdate: meeting a friend at the playground for some slides and swings and juiceboxes. I can chat with the parents and get to know them, instead of anonymously standing around and not talking to each other.

I've managed to give birth to two kids with summer birthdays - probably scarring them for life that they can't have cupcake day at school! Brian & I talked often about what we wanted for our kids, and a giant party they won't remember was definitely not one of them. So Year 1 was cupcakes in her high chair. Year 2: lather, rinse, repeat. Year 3: more cupcakes, plus a $2 box of popsicles for her classmates at daycare. Next year, we may get an inflatable bouncy something in the backyard. But we won't have to invite a dozen kids to make it worthwhile - Helen and Alice could have it all to themselves!

What I could see in future years to celebrate their big day: inviting a couple of their best friends over for some time at the neighborhood pool. Maybe they could have a sleepover if they wanted it. I'm sure they sound like boring old-fashioned parties that nobody has anymore, plus it's so much work and it messes up your house to have a bunch of kids over. But why spend weekends going to the same party places over and over? My greatest wish for their birthdays is a party they'll remember. I don't remember most of mine, although Mom swears up & down I had them. And for some reason, my 29th birthday is a total blank. Hmm.

What's the first birthday party you can remember? Let me know. I wonder if it's just me being ridiculous about this whole thing. I've seen scads of posts on parenting websites and while everyone has ideas for themes and games and cakes and goody bags, not one single parent expresses my level of frustration at having to stand around at these events with nothing better to do than watch your child. So maybe it's just me, and you can feel free to tell me to just get over it. And if it's not just me - speak up!


ElastiGirl said...

it's not just you!!!! third grade on is great for the sleepover parties. I always asked if I could drop them off and then come back later... those parties are painful for the adults!!

Miss Smarty Pants said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miss Smarty Pants said...

The first birthday I can remember was THE day that my parents moved us from one place to another. I was three. Mom actually tells me that she had it weeks before my third birthday because we were moving and she knew I would know no one at the new place. My party consisted of McDonalds (before Happy Meals), a cake, a Ronald McDonald doll that I kept for a long time after that and NO furniture in the house. A couple of friends and we got to run around and yell. The house echoed, and I am sure we had some sort of low cost party games. But what I remember is running around and hearing our yells echo through the house (I don't think we had much carpet in that house) and the Ronald McDonald doll. After that I remember family birthday dinners more than big birthday parties, and Mom always making my birthday cakes. I got to pick whatever she made for dinner, and it made me feel special.

Anonymous said...

Man, I really missed out by not having kids. I adore going to parties where I know no one and standing around smiling at people I don't care if I ever see again. Crap, did I type all that outloud?!?

My favorite thing is the idea of cooking in the car. That's a terrific way to look at it and it seems, for my family, too, that Dad would pick up Chinese. I love when you go to an Asian restaurant and you know very well that their English is much more proper than yours but they have something like "fried crap" (instead of, obviously, steamed crap, oh, wait, CRAB) on their menu.

Happy Thanksgiving to ya'll!


The Amazing Babysitter said...

i have to say that i am still bitter about my birthday party.

The first one I remember was my
5th birthday and my mom and i went to mcdonalds to plan my party with them. i was going to have about 8 girls and we were going to eat mcdonalds, play on the playground and do other little activities. the lady working told me that "ronald mcdonald had a very special surprise for me." I spent days and weeks toiling over what it could possibly be! i drove my mother crazy with possible ronald mcdonald scenarios. maybe he would show up, maybe he would give me a cool present. i had no idea.. well we had the party and all was a success,but at the end, i asked that same lady what my suprise from ronald mcdonald was. her reply: "This party!" i think if looks could kill, she would have been dead on the spot after she told me that! obviously there is still a little resentment,unfortunatley not enough to keep me from loving their fries! darn it mcdonalds and your delicious fries!