As parents, we reserve the right—nay, we’ve EARNED the right to micromanage every detail of our child’s existence. But there is one area (just one) where we need to back off and let the little hooligans reign with unbridled tomfoolery.
The birthday party.
What in the name of June Cleaver are we doing messing with this time honoured tradition?
When I was a kid, a birthday party meant a few balloons, some cake and a treat bag (if the kid was totally spoiled). All you need to do is google “toddler birthday party ideas” to realize your balloons and treat bags ain’t gonna cut it (insert zee snap or some other obnoxious move). No, nowadays, you are expected to provide the mother of all micromanaged events.
It’s a helicopter parent’s dream come true planning such an affair. Invitations are sent out complete with an RSVP and detailed itinerary. From 3-4pm it’s pony rides and a petting zoo for a barnyard themed event (antihistamines provided). Everyone better be dressed accordingly (because nobody wants to be “that parent” whose kid is in sweat pants when all the other kids are in gingham and cowboy boots). Get your line dance on from 4-5pm with the Baby Bluegrass Band, because what toddler doesn’t LOVE choreographed walking (in a straight line, no less).
We’ll eat little individualized pizzas shaped like baby barns from 5 until precisely 5:20 at which time we will open gifts. (Please read gift registry attached to invite.)Then it’s lawn games from 5:20 until 6:15! Potato sack races, and wheel barrow races and a pie eating contest, oh my! Then we’ll all take a garden hoe to the Old MacDonald piñata and binge-eat root veggies as they explode everywhere. FUN. Instead of treat bags, each child will be given a seed to swallow and three days later, they’ll magically poop out a tiny garden patch (seek medical attention immediately if child experiences abdominal pain).
Okay, so I got carried away, but seriously? Why are we micromanaging kids’ birthday parties? What was wrong with the 1980s free-for-all style party we grew up with? How ‘bout we aim to be a little less June Cleaver and a little more Roseanne Connor, shall we?
I’m pretty sure the theme to every one of my birthday parties growing up was ME. I was the theme. Kids came to MY house. They watched ME open MY presents. They sang Happy Birthday to ME, ate MY cake, wrecked MY house, then they went the hell home.
My mom wasn’t agonizing over activities and games for us to play. We were expected to entertain ourselves and stay the hell out of her perm. There were no scheduled events, and I certainly wasn’t expected to invite every Tom, Dick and Carol in my class. We just ran loose in the house squealing over nothing and everything. It was bliss. If those parties were good enough for us, why aren’t they good enough for our kids?
My most memorable birthday party was when I was eight going on nine. We were left unattended for just a smidge too long, so six over-sugared school girls and I made the rash decision to cover our faces in lipstick and take turns going through the laundry shoot. I ran from the bathroom to the laundry room giggling like a psycho only to find one friend had gotten stuck in the shoot. We tried everything to free her (mostly squealing and panicking), but nothing worked. One by one, each girl burst into tears as she crashed from her sugar high.
My dad heard the barrage of breakdowns and came into the laundry room. “What the hell is going on in here?” he yelled. This made everyone cry even harder. He managed to free her from the laundry shoot, but everyone was sent home early and I was grounded for a month. It was legendary—the stuff of what ‘80s free range birthday parties were made of…sigh…we need to get back to that place.
So stop over to our place at the end of May when we host the toddler’s ‘80s inspired birthday “event.” The theme is Lipstick and Laundry Shoots. Bring your own lipstick; we’ll provide the laundry shoot. It’ll be a brouhaha happy good time!
Except for the kid who gets stuck.