When Drew and I were deciding whether to have kids, #1 in the “CON” column was birthday parties. We imagined the next two decades would be full of the overindulgent, insufferable celebrations of our kids’ friends (and friends’ kids) every damn milestone, every damn weekend. Ultimately, building a family together, adding love to our home and all that other crap won out, so we went for it.
Now, every Saturday and Sunday, we pay the price.
Truth be told, it’s not that bad. Yes, we have a lot of parties to go to, but it turns out I actually like my kids’ friends and my friends’ kids – for now, at least.
Still, there are a few things that bug me about these parties, and they’re always the parents’ fault.
I know, the only thing worse than going to a kids’ birthday party is throwing one for your own kid. It costs a fortune, it takes weeks of planning and it’s over in 30 seconds.
But we’re in this together, parents. Birthday parties are a necessary evil, so let’s try to make them as painless as possible. I’d like to lay out a few ground rules that I think will make this better for everyone involved. Well, for the grownups, at least. That’s what matters, right?
I hereby present the Birthday Party Pact:
1. Grownups get to eat, too. Seriously, guys. I like pizza. I like cake. Am I just supposed to stand there like an idiot and watch my kids stuff their faces with your wonderful junk food, then pick at their leftovers as I take their Elmo plates to the trash? I’m starving! I know it costs more to feed the grownups, but tough. How ’bout this: I’m a guest at Timmy’s party, too, so if you didn’t order enough Little Caesars for everyone, then I get to raid your refrigerator. I’m not too proud to do it!
2. Let’s keep things quick. Two hours is more than enough festivity to expect of your guests. When you see grown-ups looking bored or starting to pack their diaper bags, it’s time to bust out the cake. If I don’t see frosting in the first 90 minutes, I’m dying inside. The cake is what we’re waiting for, so don’t hold out on us. It’s torture. Every conversation Drew and I have after the one hour mark is about how much longer it’s going to be until the cake comes and whether we should try to sneak out before then. If I have to leave before you’ve served me cake, then your party was too long, and I’m probably going to stop at Frosted Cupcakery on the way home to get my sugar fix. Happy?
3. Gift bags? Pfft! I’m always impressed at some of the things my kids receive in gift bags. People really go overboard. It’s very nice, but totally unnecessary. You spent enough money feeding my kids and entertaining them for the last no-more-than-two hours. They don’t need parting gifts. I mean, it’s not their birthday. Save your money on the gift bags and get a better cake instead. Speaking of which, chocolate is the universal flavor. It’s your kid’s birthday. Let them live a little.
4. Thanks, but no thank yous. Don’t get me wrong. I love thank yous. They’re the perfect way to make our kids feel guilty about getting so much stuff. But until they’re old enough to write their own, I hope you don’t expect me to do it on their behalf. I’m not going to play with the Crayola Magic Color Explosion Super Mega Wheel, so why should I be punished? Don’t worry. You’re off the hook, too. When I get a card that some sad grown-up felt compelled to write to me in their kid’s “voice”, I just laugh at them. “I really love the thoughtful whatever-piece-of-crap you picked up at Target on the way to the party. I play with it all the time.” Really, it was nothing. Trust me.
5. Let your kid have some gifts. When I’m throwing myself a party, I add a polite “no gifts” to the invitation. I’m a grown man. Taking gifts from friends feels tacky. But kids are different. Kids love getting stuff. I know they don’t need it. I know you’ve personally contributed about ten tons of perfectly good toys to the local dump because you simply didn’t have enough space for them all. But let your kids walk into their birthday party and see a mountain of boxes in Dora The Explorer wrapping paper, all for them. It’s priceless. Personally, I was dreading the toy tsunami that would follow my kids’ party, but I have to say, our friends got them the nicest, most thoughtful gifts. Educational toys, toys their own kids loved, toys I’d never heard of but that my kids went crazy for. Just take them. And if you don’t need something, regift it. I’ll understand.
6. Beer. I’m always stunned when I go to a kid’s birthday party and there are two coolers. One inevitably has Capri Sun or Juicy Juice or something, the other Michelob. Seriously? It’s 10am! And we’re at Harriet the Hen’s Happy Shack. But sure enough, I’ll see plenty of moms and dads pounding brewskies while their kids beat the juice out of a piñata. All right, if that’s what you want, fine. I’ll supply beer at my kids’ parties, too, and I’ll try my hardest not to judge you for drinking it. Now how ’bout a Pepsi for those of us who want something in between a Cherry Cooler and a Mike’s Hard Lemonade? Thanks.
7. Face Paint? Color me pissed! Am I the only one who thinks kids look creeeeeepy with face paint? Or that it’s a secret plot by the tattoo industry to condition our children extra young? (Wouldn’t they just love it if they created a whole generation of Mike Tysons willing to ink their faces?) I know I’m not the only one who hates cleaning that crap off my kids’ cheeks when we get home (or fighting with them to let me do it). (Full disclosure – my kids haven’t actually had their faces painted yet, but I know someday it’s a fight I’ll lose.) I think the only reason people hire face painters for kids’ parties is that kids demand it. And why do they demand it? Because of that one schmuck parent who thought it was cute back when the whole craze started. Well, I say stop the madness. If we all resist the face paint, it’ll go away forever!
There you go. A few simple guidelines that will make the birthday party circuit more bearable for all of us. And if you have something you want to add to the Birthday Party Pact, leave me a comment below. Let’s finalize this thing and distribute it, OK?