In my 20s, my fridge was covered in embossed card stock “joyfully requesting my presence” at the “union between Friend No. 1 and Friend No. 2.” Gradually, those cards have been replaced by Spiderman asking me to join him at SportsPlex to celebrate Michael’s magical milestone of turning 9 years old. At this point, I realize things haven’t changed all that much; my social life is still being determined by other people’s life events. After all, a kid’s birthday party isn’t all that different from a wedding.
1. It fills up my weekends.
Wedding season is the best: Just put on a dress, write a $200 check, and head straight to the open bar.
Fast-forward to now. “Where are we going today?” is usually the first phrase out of my toddler’s mouth in the morning. It’s nice to replace “I thought we’d swing by the dry cleaner to see if Daddy’s suit is ready” with “Today we are painting pottery with a girl named Madison.”
Weekend, consider yourself planned.
2. The excitement over being invited will slowly fade.
Remember when your first friend got married, and you thought it was the best thing in the world? An open bar, hors d’oeuvres passed around on plates, unlimited dancing, an after-party. Then the wedding invitations began pouring in, and you found yourself just a little less enthusiastic to don the taffeta dress and clap along to “I’m Yours.” By the time your last girlfriend was ready to get hitched, you were like, “Helll nooo.”
So goes the birthday party gauntlet. Except it continues endlessly, until you start having lucid nightmares of being chased by animatronic mice down a bouncy slide.
3. It’s a guaranteed meal, often consumed at odd times during the day.
Why yes, I love sitting down to a mediocre Chateaubriand dinner at 11 p.m. Doesn’t everybody?
Even better: when the super-salty birthday pizza is served at a weird time, like 3:45 p.m. That totally counts as lunch and dinner, right?
4. Gift-opening is not part of the festivities.
That’s what bridal showers are for. For weddings, once the check clears, I’m good to go.
No one expects a toddler to tear at their presents in public, nor do they expect a room full of sugared, caffeinated children to sit and watch this display.
Which is a good thing, so when little Timmy opens our gift, no one can hear my kid yell out, “Wait, didn’t Aunt Lucy give me that toy for Christmas?”
5. We always come home with crappy favors.
I totally get why a tiny 2-x-2-inch picture frame engraved with the newlyweds’ wedding date makes for a meaningful keepsake. I will treasure it, even though it is only capable of displaying rejected passport photos.
Similarly, everyone knows birthday party goodie bags are filled with 99-cent choking hazards. But to my kids, they are a treasure chest filled with golden doubloons of wonder. A plastic wand! Laffy Taffy! A hand-clapper! It will entertain my children for minutes. And by this time next week, it will all be joining that picture frame keepsake in a landfill far far away.
6. There is a lot of dancing in circles.
The Hokey Pokey. The Chicken Dance. Randomly spinning around with your arms out.
And don’t get me started on children’s party dances.
7. No one really cares about the cake.
At weddings, the minute the DJ announces that the couple is about to cut their cake, I beeline for the bathroom. The only thing more fascinating than watching two adults pantomime correctly using silverware, is watching a 3-year-old attempt to blow out their own birthday candle without “help,” then applauding maniacally for them.
8. Too much time is spent posing for photographs.
I never realized how many potential combinations of people there were until I had to pose for photos at my wedding and my kids’ birthday parties: one with Grandpa, one with Grandma, one with both grandparents. One with several staff members dressed up as Minions and Grandma.
And in both situations, lots of posing with cake.
9. People enjoy whispering about how they would do everything differently.
At weddings: I wonder how much this cost. I can’t believe they invited all these people. It’s too loud. The service isn’t great. Let me tell you, when we plan ours, it will be verrrry different.
At birthday parties: I wonder how much this cost. I can’t believe they invited all these people. It’s too loud. The service isn’t great. Let me tell you, when we plan ours, it will be verrrry different.
10. People spend a lot of time saying how ‘it goes so fast.’
One day, they’re taking their first steps in the party room at Gymboree. Next, you’re planning their wedding.