Humor me, for a minute. Your little one is about to have a birthday and, like any dutiful parent, you’re planning his party. Except you started a little late … and now your first choice venue doesn’t have any good times available. And your second choice venue doesn’t have any good dates available. And your third choice venue is just a little too far to be worth the trip. And you’d sooner have a root canal performed by an arthritic honey badger than host a dozen screaming toddlers at your house, so the at-home party option is out.
So you give up. You will not be throwing a party for Junior this year, modern parenting conventions be damned. There will be no goodie bags packed with too-big-to-choke-on plastic knick knacks, no frenzied bouncing in Day-Glo hued castles of air, no delightful group pictures of birthday party patrons picking their noses, eating mysterious crumbs off the floor and looking everywhere but at the camera.
Who loses out in this scenario? Does your toddler? The one who would otherwise get a sugar high from three bites of ice cream cake and run around like a maniac in his over-full diaper while you pray that he can make it through the remainder of the party without a change? The one who wouldn’t remember one iota of this birthday bonanza when he’s older?
No, dear readers. The one who loses out is you … and I’m not talking about in the mushy, sentimental “You won’t see your child’s brilliant smile as he basks in the glow of birthday love from everyone he knows in the tri-state area” sense. I mean that you, personally, lose out because you’re missing one of the few opportunities you get to see YOUR friends.
Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. You know as well as I do that birthday parties for young children are as much about adults getting to socialize as it is about showing kids a good time. In many cases, it’s probably more about adults getting to socialize and the kids having a good time is just a happy byproduct. “Don’t pay any attention to Mommy and Daddy swearing like sailors and doing keg stands, kids. Go pop a few balloons, bounce till you barf and have a great time!”
As many a wise blogger before me has written, motherhood can be lonely. (I’m sure fatherhood can be lonely too, but having never been a father, I can’t testify to that.) Your old social life goes out the window and establishing a new one depends heavily on your ability to find reliable and affordable babysitting. Many moms swear by kid-friendly activities like playdates and mommy groups, but when you’re working full-time and your weekends are packed with errands, fitting regular playdates and mom club meetings into the schedule feels about as doable as the soda bottle art project you promised you’d finish … six months ago.
Work-from-home parents face a double-whammy: We’re too busy to partake in daytime mom gatherings but we also don’t get the benefits of socializing with co-workers face-to-face … and the occasional G-chats or Facebook messages really don’t cut it unless you have a fetish for emoticons. 🙂
Enter the birthday party. There’s no stressing about who to have a playdate with and when — you just set a date and time and invite everyone! Invite your friend from your old job with the two preschoolers. Invite your old college buddy with a baby who lives an hour away. Invite the mom you just met last week but whom you think — fingers crossed! — you might really hit it off with. Invite your neighbors! Invite your friends without kids! Invite whoever looks sane enough to carry on a conversation with you! The more adults the merrier because OHMIGOD do you need more adults in your life.
Even if you’re terrible at keeping up with friends otherwise, an invite to your child’s birthday party sends the message that you do think about them and would like to see them, even it means swimming through a germ-laden ball pit to do it.
Some naysayers would point out that, at many kids’ parties, carrying on adult conversations are near-impossible because parents are busy chasing down their progeny to make sure no one tries to dip the Elsa impersonator’s braid in the punch.
This is true, but sometimes even the most fleeting of adult exchanges (“Nice haircut!” “Thanks!”) are a welcome respite from the daily grind of “Don’t touch that,” “Please just eat this” and “NO, DON’T EAT THAT!!”
Your child will survive not celebrating his birthday with an elaborate shindig for one, or even more, years. But will you? Better start planning next year’s party right now … Who’s ready for some keg stands and bouncy castles?
You are. Boy, are you ever.
Image courtesy of ThinkStockMore On