Recommended wine for today’s entry: As we’re discussing birthday parties, how about a Cakebread Merlot? This Napa winery produces excellent, award-winning sips … Of the Spring 2005 merlot, the San Diego Union Tribune said, “What a pretty Merlot!! Mouthwatering scents of black cherry, dark chocolate, vanilla and cedar spice meld perfectly and continue as flavors in the richly textured mouth. Long, delicious finish.” They rated it 4 stars, “highly recommended.”
Last night, I was supposed to help chaperone a birthday party. But I didn’t make it, because an hour before the party started, I developed an achy back and a nagging headache.
No, I was not faking. But I wouldn’t swear it wasn’t hypochondria.
You see, ever since my kids were little, I have had an intense fear of throngs of children, gangs if you will, and if you add in the sugar surges and musical chairs-induced adrenaline rushes of a birthday party, it is a totally horrid experience.
I learned a WHOLE lot of valuable lessons from my oldest daughter’s 6th birthday party, and I have decided to share them. Hopefully, some of you are much younger than I am and haven’t conceived yet … because to follow my rules for successful children’s parties, you’ll need to start very early.
Rule #1: Give birth between April and October. You may think this is difficult, but it’s very simple: only have sex between July and January. No, I’m not an OB/GYN, but I am very good at math and you can trust me on this one.
Why? So that you can have an OUTDOOR birthday party. Little kids with a sugar buzz need to be turned outside. Sure, you can send them out in February, but then you can’t let them back in, because the mud factor really bites. If you do leave ‘em outside, their moms act all aghast when they pick up their children and their noses are turning black from frostbite. C’mon, lady, let a kid be a kid!
Rule #2: Don’t invite the whole kindergarten class. I know, it feels like the nice thing to do. You assume that by doing this, your child will be invited – under the tenets of the Kindergarten Party Reciprocity Agreement – to all 24 of their parties, giving you about 72 hours of free time. (24 parties x 3 hours – remember, I’m good at math.)
No. It doesn’t work that way and here’s why: The moms drop their kids off and you are normal, charming and capable. Three hours later, they return to pick up their little dumplings and you are disheveled and borderline catatonic as you shove their child out the front door.
So your kid is now off their invitation list, either because they decide against a big party after seeing what happened to you, or they shun your child as you appear to have multiple personalities.
Rule #3: Keep it short. Like Gilligan’s Island, a three-hour tour can turn into months or years … or at least it feels like it. And honestly, I’d rather be stranded on a desert island. Keep your party to two hours maximum. At my daughter’s FOUR-hour party, we accomplished the entire agenda of games, lunch, gift opening and craft projects in one hour and 12 minutes. Exactly. The remaining 2:48 were a living hell.
Actually, the planned activities would have been finished in under an hour if we hadn’t had the total meltdown and ensuing scratching match between the two finalists in musical chairs.
Allow four minutes for lunch. We assumed, and here let’s remember the adage about an ass of you and me, that they’d take 30 minutes to eat the cute little “picnic” we’d set up in the basement. Apparently, a meal not preceded by a round or two of cocktails can be condensed into a very brief period of time. Who knew?
Rule #4: Take the ice cream cake out of the freezer a half hour before you want to serve it. Unless you have an amazing ginsu knife that is guaranteed to cut through igneous rock, you’re going to have 25 kids sitting on the floor with forks while you frantically blow dry the dang thing. After awhile, they’ll start poking each other with the forks. Now your child is in tears because “this is the WORST party ever and all we want is some ice cream cake.” If you have one, a blowtorch can help.
Rule #5: Invite your mother-in-law. This is especially effective if they are from out of town, because they won’t have a car with which to flee the scene. Oh, and lock the guest room door from the inside so they can’t hide. Especially when your kids are young, grandparents still think they like children. (They’ll only fall for this once.)
Your husband, who is usually videotaping all the festivities and documenting your slow spiral into insanity, is not able (or willing) to stop and take control of the swarming children. Having your mother-in-law there is key, because she can be assigned to keep an eye on things while you duck into the kitchen now and again. See Rule #6.
Rule #6: Have a box of wine in the fridge. I know, I know, totally inappropriate. So if you’re so holy, don’t do it. But you’ll wish you did after hour two, when you are rooting through your medicine cabinet for the one remaining valium you got after your eye surgery. And when you come up empty handed, you’ll stride through the family room, signal your mother-in-law “one more second,” gallop to the fridge, throw your head back and open the spigot.
No it’s not classy. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Even if you’re not a box wine aficionado, the box is important here because: 1) There’s no dirty wine glass in the sink at 2 p.m. when the parents pick up their children; and 2) Your mother-in-law doesn’t know exactly how much you’ve imbibed.
By the time they left, I believe I handed one crappy little kid her treat bag and whispered, “Just ignore the ticking sound. Take the bag.”
I’ll save my tips for an older child’s party and a pony party and a clown party and especially a limo party for later posts…I’m afraid if I lay it all out now, people will decide not to reproduce,