We did it for years: a combination double-birthday-party and Halloween extravaganza at our house. See, I have two sons two years and one week apart, one on Halloween. That means holidays get blurred. We can’t ask people to show up for two parties at two separate times when these two kids have basically the same set of friends. So double birthday party, plus costumes. At my house, which means all the adult friends attached to our fam expect invites, too.
This year, I said fuck that. This year, I decided I was not going to put myself through the fresh hell of a party up in Chez Broadbent.
Because a party at my house translates into birthday party hell. You know the drill. There are decorations to put up (times ten, because Halloween’s in the mix). There’s food — lots of food, cakes and cupcakes and snacks and drinks and everything short of a full fucking lunch.
But before I can even approach the real party, I have to clean all the things. All the things. The baseboards. The kitchen cabinet faces. The dust on the stove and the bookshelves (and we have a library’s worth of bookshelves). The bathrooms must be scrubbed. The kid’s room, the playroom, the den: everything has to be sparkling and dust-free. Yards must be mowed and picked up and de-dog-pooped. All this takes exhausting days of work in which I clean, snap at my kids to help. They don’t help. I snap again. They slink away.
I have to procure costumes for everyone, preferably related to a family theme.
Fuck that noise. I have a life, and it’s too busy to spend cleaning for you people. I told my husband he could pick between a maid service and a birthday party spent Elsewhere. He picked Elsewhere. I gave the kids three choices, and they picked their favorite sensory gym. For a reasonable price, I got 18 child guests, an hour and a half scheduled conveniently between after lunch but before dinner — prime snacktime — and a mere fifteen minutes to set up. Fifteen minutes. You can’t do much in fifteen minutes, thank you Jesus, and no one wants to spend much time snarfing cake when there’s a whole gym to play in.
So we coughed up the money I’d typically spend on decorations, food, and a cake anyway, along with some extra money on cupcakes, used an old tablecloth and Halloween plates I got on discount last year, and stuffed some goodie bags.
Boom. Party time.
There were no stupid party games to plan, like the time I turned a wooded area into the Forbidden Forest, seeded it with spiders, and hid a stuffed unicorn as the big prize. There was no “pin the tail on the hippogriff” or bobbing for apples or silly art projects. They opened the gym doors. We said hello to parents. And the kids took off their shoes and ran into all directions.
We ignored them.
I got to talk to every single parent there. I didn’t frantically fill glasses or shuttle paper plates or yell at kids to use a damn coaster. Instead, I introduced people with similar interests. We had conversations. We caught up on life. My mother even found someone to talk to. We watched the kids play in a non-interventionary, mostly disinterested fashion. I tickled a new baby and talked to one girl about her Tupperware business and another mom about homeschooling. I talked with an old friend from college.
We had adult conversations about adult things without herding small people around. And It.Was.AMAZING.
With a mere fifteen minutes left, we herded the kids into the party room. “Happy Birthday” was sung and candles blown out. Then cupcakes — not cake — was handed out, so nothing needed to be cut. One son got Halloween cupcakes. The other got birthday ones with sprinkles. People snarfed those down, snapped up goodie bags, and went back to play for another ten minutes. Glorious. We do present-free birthdays, so none of that crap interfered.
Then, right on time, everyone went home. No one lingered. We didn’t sit around wishing so-and-so would just fucking leave so we could get to making dinner. No one had to offer to help clean up. The kids were exhausted. It was a birthday miracle.
I will never again host a birthday party in my own home. Ever. The benefits are clear. No cleaning. No stupid party games. No decorations, no trying to impress anyone, and when they party’s done, everyone gets the fuck out and we head home, guilt-free. Sure, I had to drop some cash. But I would have spent that money on food and decorations and miscellaneous stuff anyway, plus my time has value. Factor all that in and I probably saved some money in the end.
I don’t know where we’ll party next. We have a birthday coming up in December, and I have to do some research. But God knows it won’t be at my place.