A couple of weeks ago, my five-year-old daughter handed me an invitation to a birthday party at Swaders Sports Park (think Chuck E Cheese’s, but without the singing mouse). She insisted that I post the invitation on the refrigerator so she could look at it often until party day. And she did. Every time she walked through the kitchen.
“I’m so excited!” she shouted. “I’ve been wanting to go to Swaders for years (really only about a couple of months), and now I finally get to go!”
Her excitement intensified on the drive to the party. It was a level of chattiness that I’ve only witnessed a few times with her.
“What do you think we will eat? Pizza? Hot dogs? Will we eat first or play first? Oh my goodness! Will there be cake? I wonder what kind! I’ll bet Maddie likes chocolate! What about ice cream? Do you think there will be ice cream? Mom! Do you think she will have goody bags? With candy?”
She asked at least one hundred questions throughout our 15-minute drive, and she didn’t wait for my responses to any of them. She was too excited and so adorable.
I mimicked her enthusiasm to the best of my ability, and it wasn’t too much of a challenge. Maybe I’m in the mom minority, but I don’t think birthday parties are the suckiest things ever.
For starters, I am an adult, and I realize that the party you are hosting is not for me. I am not expecting trays of cocktails (not a bad idea, though) or bacon-wrapped scallops. It is not my social event; it is my child’s. I will make small talk, offer to help pour sodas, or pass out plates and napkins. I will take pictures of my child having fun and do whatever is necessary to help pass the time. I can do these things because I am a grown-up. And I am wise enough to know that it is not your job to entertain me. I can schedule my own social engagements that do not revolve around a child’s birthday party.
Some moms have complained that food allergies are the reason they can’t tolerate kids’ birthday parties. My son has had a nut allergy since the age of two. He is eight now, and we have never skipped a party because of his allergy. Most venues are understanding and allow me to bring in outside food, provided that I can show them a certificate from the bakery. Parents are equally understanding and offer me a list of cake ingredients, as well as substitutions when necessary. Each year, there are fewer and fewer people who are unaware of food allergies and their potential, serious reactions. So, sorry folks — not a good reason to skip a party.
Sure, sometimes birthday parties are at inconvenient times. Sometimes I don’t know anyone at the party except my own child. Sometimes allowing one of my children to attend a party means securing a sitter for the other. Sometimes I would rather do other things or just relax at home after a long week. But I’m not going to bail on your kid like that. If you invite us and we don’t have other plans, we’re coming to your child’s birthday party.
A big part of my rationale is that I don’t want to think of a child having no guests at his party. And I certainly don’t want to be responsible for that type of disappointment. This was one of my fears when my son was little and I organized his first few parties. I was so neurotic about it that I had a back-up plan in mind in case no one showed up. Fortunately, that never happened to us. But it did happen in Arizona. Last year. To a kindergartener.
But my main reason for attending your child’s party is because I remember the magic of birthdays. Birthday parties were a childhood staple for many of us. Sure, they were simpler then: most cakes were homemade, parties were held at parks, pools or homes, and there was less focus on entertainment.
The intent hasn’t changed, though. We are still planning ways to celebrate our children. And you do that however you want: hire a petting zoo, host a paint party, make slime, decorate pizzas, or rent a bounce house. And we will come if we can.
Birthday parties are magical for children: the games, gifts, goody bags, everything. Every birthday morsel is delicious. And guess what? The fun doesn’t end when the party is over.
In fact, it has been two weeks since my daughter attended her friend’s birthday party at Swaders. She is still talking about it. She can’t wait to “swing on the purple thing” again and she just has to play the goldfish game next time because she’s positive she has figured out how to hit the jackpot.
I’m glad that I was able to help my daughter have that experience. She has the opportunity to attend her friends’ parties without seeing her mom sulk in a corner. Nope, I’m going to be right there having as much fun as possible, maybe too much fun. That goldfish game is pretty awesome, and I can play some mean skee ball if those kids would free up a lane already.
Seriously, though, thanks for including us. We appreciate the invite.