The mylar balloons have popped (with help from mama when she therapeutically needed to stab something). The presents have been screened before you had a chance to dive in at home and find the elicit Barbie doll (all those late pre-Christmas nights with a precise Exacto knife along tape seams taught me well). The thank you notes will not be sent because in the digital age of photos, “party favor” gifts and free food a requirement; they’ve been thanked enough.
Our own birthday madness has passed for the year and here is what I have learned from attending and hosting this year:
1. It’s a great chance for you to make new friends as a parent. Make sure you delegate photo taking to someone so you get a chance to mingle. There were lots of conversations I wish I could have heard but I was busy wrangling wayward kids as a host which leads me to…
2. Party favors are the bane of party attendance for most parents. Make sure the party favors are a multifunctional aspect of the party (balloons for a centerpiece, a toy to be used at the event, etc.) and not a gut bomb bag of candy and toxic toys made by third world indentured servants that you shove at people as they exit. Our friend, Nicole, made each kid a mermaid/man outfit that doubled as chair decorations. Genius! (I told her to sell them on Etsy. I hope she listens so I can steal her theme for next year.)
3. Other parents hear “birthday party” and think “free daycare”. A great way to avoid becoming a dropoff daycare? Don’t let them. Specify that you look forward to visiting with the parents as well in the invitation. One host, a genius, greeted each parent and handed them a nametag. Pushy maybe but a very clear sign that they weren’t sneaking off on her watch.
4. Presents are to be hidden and doled out later as needed or deserved. Nothing says entitled gluttony like a kid tearing into presents and assessing them in front of guests. Specify a gift table or ask for “presence is present enough”. Gather them, take a photo, and dole them out as rainy day surprises the rest of the year. This also allows for donating away the errant sex worker/veternarian Barbie doll.
5. Most kids just want cake and friends. Just having the party means everything to them… and a frilly dress because, well, don’t we all want to be royalty for a day? (Side note, don’t upstage the birthday kid. It’s like wearing a white dress to a wedding or a slinky number to your kid’s party to pick up on guys… yeah. All about the kids, right?)
6. Lastly, and I swear by this, don’t have it at home. The last thing you want is your house destroyed and having to clean up after you’re already exhausted. Parks, restaurants with play areas,
and (Nora’s favorite) theaters are perfect. You don’t need to decorate everything because they’re distracted just by being out with friends and there’s a good chance of you getting to have a beer once the dust settles.
Good luck friends, pack extra wipes, tip heavily and stay strong.