The party store: it’s filled with balloons, candy, and a colorful assortment of paper goods. It should be fun; it’s got ‘party’ right in its name. But for the parent shopping for their child’s birthday extravaganza, it’s agonizing. It is especially painful when the party theme your child has attached herself to is the ever-popular: ‘Coconut, Dentist, Puppy’ theme.
So far all I have come up with is having my husband put on a sterile face mask and a coconut bra while walking our dog, but I quickly vetoed that because I actually like 52% of the people I’m inviting to the party (that number may not be entirely accurate as I figured it using a calculator from high school that only has two buttons left–cosign and tangent, but I think it’s a safe estimate anyway). Maybe the dog will wear the coconut bra.
I decide to move onto goody bags. My idea of a really great goody bag: chip clips and a slotted spoon, because let’s face it, you can never have too many of those. Of course, I know better than that. Well, I do now after last year’s party. I sift through plastic frogs, neon bracelets, and tiny little Slinkys. The truth of the matter: the kids will love any of this crap, it’s the moms I’m trying to impress. Two things define us in this world: how many Beatles’ songs we can name without taking a breath and what we put into a goody bag. And nothing opens you up to suburban criticism like a bad goody bag (other than wearing a tube top to the school picnic, but that one is pretty obvious).
In a last minute strategic move, I decide to give gift baskets to all the moms with a bottle of wine, various cheeses, and an autographed copy of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I grab some ‘Over the Hill’ themed decorations because my daughter can’t read yet anyway and I bid the party store farewell.
One party detail I am certain of: no piñata. Nothing will reduce a gaggle of children to their most primal of instincts like a piñata. My daughter had her first encounter with a piñata just a couple of weeks ago. That paper-mache, twine-dangling, horrifyingly distorted animated character should have heralded joy, but ‘twas not the case. Some birthday party etiquette: when inviting an abundance of portly children to your soiree, it may be prudent to forgo the piñata. My daughter waited patiently to see what exactly was in SpiderMan’s cardboard head and all she got was an elbow to the throat. Thankfully it was a very chunky elbow and caused no discernible damage. My daughter was appalled, “That’s what they do for candy?” I pulled her aside, “Wait until you learn what that kid will do for a free beer at 19.”
The next thing on my party ‘to-do’ list: invitations. There are three categories of invitees: people I like, people I want to impress, and people I have to invite. That last category is based solely on the ‘destruction factor’ of the children (a ranking system from 1 to 10). This number takes into account how much cake the children will smear on the walls before their parents realize their children could use a hose-down. Case in point–Carol. Poor, sweet, sweet Carol. She is the mother of four boys and was forced to give up hygiene a long time ago (her boys’ and her own). It was the survival instinct, really. She used to dress them in matching outfits with perfectly combed hair, but lately she’s had to prioritize and frankly, keeping her home from becoming a UFC cage match has taken precedence. No one blames her.
I ran into Carol and her boys at the grocery store just the other day. Two of her boys were squaring off–one boy armed with a mangled box of taco shells, the other with a bag of frozen pearl onions (I resisted the urge to inquiry about that recipe), another boy was singing a very off-color sea chantey to the free sample lady, and the baby was covered in what I can only hope was pudding leftover from lunch. Poor Carol was singing the ‘ABC’ song to a cantaloupe she was gently rocking. You just can’t leave a woman like this off of your guest list. That last shred of sanity is what bonds all moms.
Last party item: presents. I asked my daughter what she would like for her birthday to which she responded, “A volcano and a trip to China.” Nothing’s ever easy.