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Monday, March 14, 2011

The epidemic of Birthday Parties

I was a little overzealous with birthday parties for my first two sons. First birthday parties 2nd, 3rd were huge productions. We rented out a place, invited a million other kids and their parents and at least $300 later we are at home with a crabby boy and a million toys that came from the clearance section of Walmart. This year, instead of parties, I decided to focus on the experience of their birthday rather than the party.  For Fin's 6th birthday we took the fam to LegoLand in Chicago, not exactly cheaper, but it was fun. I modified it even more for Parker's 8th birthday celebration and said he could invite 3 friends, (one of which had to be his brother) and we would go to the place of his choice.  After coercing him that he really didn't want to go to Chuck E. Cheeses we ended up at a bowling ally.  Why I believed that 4 pm on a Saturday would be an ideal birthday spot will baffle me until I die.  Parker is at the age where parents just drop kids off, which is good, because I don't have the pressure to entertain adults as well as children.  We had a babysitter for the 2 younger ones because the thought of a baby crawling on an ally floor brings out the germ-a phobe in anyone.  2 adults, 4 kids, do-able.
We purchased wrist bands that would allow them to have access to glow in the dark putt putt, go-carts and bowling.  I put our name in for a lane and I was given the wait time of 2 hours.  A long time, yes,  but we were there to have fun and gosh darn it we were going to. At least that is the lecture I gave Don before we left.  There was quite an interesting crowd at the bowling ally. As Don stood in line with the boys to ride the co-carts I parked myself at a picnic table with our mountain of coats.  I could feel Don glaring at me from the line and mouthed to him to watch our coats while I got a snack for the kids and a diet coke for me.  After the very "enthusiastic" teenager gave me my popcorn I headed back to the table. Only to be bumped by a dad walking around holding a beer.  There is a bar attached to this place.  Isn't there an open container law or some law about drunk men in a kids establishment?  When I decided to stop staring at my popcorn and look around,  I discovered that there were a lot of people carrying beers around as if it were tailgating during football season, except 99% of all the attendees were under the age of 12. By the time I got back to the post Don looked like they had moved about a foot and I motioned to him to come and get some popcorn, knowing very well, he was stuck in the fenced in holding area.
I sat people watching.  I noticed that most everyone there had a cell phone or smart phone and were half paying attention to there kids, that may explain why some little kid ate my popcorn.  I was kind of relieved when he did because I had consumed almost all of it by myself with in 5 minutes and would have finished it off if he hadn't stuck his grimy paw in it.  Just what I needed, sodium overload to make me appear that I'm 4 months pregnant again.
Now that I was feeling fat,  I was the one being cranky, not Don. Especially when he emerged from the line asking where all the popcorn was.
After losing a coin toss Don got to take them black light putt putting. Thankfully, because the last time I was in that area my hair looked like I had just stepped out of the playboy mansion and my teeth are equally vibrant, it is not kind environment for bottle blonds.
I happily held down the coat fort. I couldn't help but notice a very large bald man with manicured eye brows staring at me and when I would look over in his direction, he didn't glance elsewhere, he continued his glare, enough so to freak me out. He also was wearing an outfit that looked like he was on a day pass from prison.  Another observation was in comparison with other moms, I would be eligible for AARP. These woman must have had their kids at age 14.
Finally, our name was called and I lugged the coats over to our second location at lane 6 which was an oasis of normalcy.  I asked what size each boys shoes were and not a single one of them knew, including my own. I got them all size 2 , nobody complained or had blood, so I'm assuming that was a good choice.  I asked Don to go and get the boys sustenance that had some nutritional value, and he returned with nachos. But not the kind with meat and lettuce, the kind with just cheese, from a machine. Bowling and eating with your hands, what could be more sanitary?  After my son's took 1st and 2nd place (WTG, sons) it was time to go home. (Finally) We arrived and our 3 year old was so excited that we were adding two additional boys to our testosterone filled house.   They sprinted upstairs, they sprinted downstairs, this time without their shirts.  They sprinted back upstairs to put their shirts on. I considered opening a bottle of wine, but decided that it would be better until after the parents picked up, just for appearance sake.
I put a frozen pizza in the oven and took the cake out of the fridge.  By the time I called them down for dinner there was sweat dripping from their brows and their faces were pink. I don't think they stopped laughing from the moment they walked in.
After the last boy left I asked Parker what his favorite part of the party was, he said coming home.
So $100 later, all he wanted was to have some friends over to play.
Some of my fondest memories from my birthdays weren't the roller skating parties as much as  the times when my birthday fell on Spring Break and we were on vacation somewhere. In fact, the best that I remember was my 12th birthday and I was alone with my parents in Hilton Head, on the drive down I kept seeing billboards with the picture of Shoney's brownie ice cream bomb and after the 15th one, that is all I wanted. We stopped, they put a candle in it, and sitting with my parents at a dive, on the side of the bipass in a Shoeney's is still one to remember.  Not for another 20 years would I enjoy being alone with my parents again. My adolescence was ending and the  beginning of my teenage years was approaching. My only regret in blowing out the candle on my Shoneys cake is that I would have wished for some mercy for the next 8 years of my awkward teenage phase filled with acne and frizz.
I don't know when the epidemic of elaborate birthday's started, but what it has caused is a generation of spoiled teens, just watch MTV's my Sweet 16 and you will agree.  Perhaps it was an attempt to show your kid how much you loved them by the magnitude of the celebration, a nice gesture that gets lost in the gifts, cake and games. Proof of this is sitting on my kitchen island, which still has two gifts, that have been opened but not played with.
It was the 30 minutes spent with friends that my son enjoyed most, and next year I will know what to give him and it won't risk our sanity, or cost a thing...

1 comment:

  1. Did you know Chuck E Cheese's is open until midnight and serves alcohol? I think that is INSANE! Danny would go on calls there when parents would buy tokens, not see their kids again for hours, and then get hammered. Nice.