Thursday, January 8, 2009

Birthday Parties: Outta Control

When they turned three, Thing 1 and Thing 2 were surprised and thrilled and satisfied by mini-cupcakes in their classroom, plastic star-shaped sunglasses and crazy straw party favors for all. The "party," at preschool, lasted maybe 15 minutes. We also took them to dinner with a couple of friends. They got tricycles and helmets, and a day at the park to use them. Done deal.

But a year later, they're Birthday Party Veterans. They have asked about having a party, given opinions on where they want it and what they want at it. So they are getting one.
 They're awash in presents already just from the family (part of that is Late Blooming Mom's fault: I got some educational-type toys, then realized I needed some pure fun ones to add to the mix).

We first explored a park/playground party, which is what we did the only time they ever had a party: for their first birthday. That party was more for us -- we survived a year with twins, and needed to see our friends after what felt like a long hibernation. There was plenty of room for the kids to play, and though we had to dodge dog poop to find a picnic table that wasn't downwind, it all worked out.

But we got lucky with the weather that time. January is an iffy time for parks, even in Southern California. (The year the kids were born, it rained four days' straight from the day they were born till we got home from the hospital). So this year, I looked into parks with indoor rec room rentals. The one we most wanted was booked up far in advance. The other was free but the more I recalled how we schlepped all the food and drink and paper goods to the park, set everything up, and later broke it all down, the less I was keen on the idea. Plus indoors in potentially bad weather can get dicey too if you don't have some entertainment planned. And as a working mom, I'm already short on time: making and planning games and crafts and such are a bit beyond what I have time for in my already booked schedule (doing the shopping has been hard enough to squeeze in).

We have no yard, and though our apartment is a good size, it'd be insane with 26 or so three and four-year-olds and their siblings running around, plus parents. We are not yet at the drop-off age where parents deposit their kids at your door and say "see ya later," and our place is simply not adequate to handle a mob.

So I opted for the solution of having the party at an indoor play space, where the staff sets it all up, and breaks it all down. They "run" the party (basically that means gathering everyone when it's cake time), come complete with a huge bouncy house, human habit trail and slide, a dress-up area, pretend kitchen, mini-roller coaster, and other such toys. There's face-painting. There are balloons. Sounds great, yes?

But even though I got the least expensive package, meaning we've got to cart in our own food, drink, favors and paper goods -- we still have to pay extra after a certain number of kids. Now I shouldn't gripe: we've attended plenty of such parties for other kids and taken advantage of their parents' generosity, allowing our kids the chance to play for a couple of hours with their school chums in a fun environment where minimum parental supervision is required. So fair is fair: we are returning the favor -- and letting all the siblings come too.

I do think a good time will be had by all.

But even doing some stuff for "less" -- I have found the 99 Cents Store and Costco to be our friends -- the costs add up. I now understand why many parents opt for no party, and just cart the birthday kid(s) to a theme park for the day. While that ain't cheap, it's still do-able for considerably less than a bash for all the school and non-school friends. And even getting a place to "run" the party means I'm the one running around buying favors and stuffing all the goody bags and realizing, despite all my organized preparation, I still forgot to buy tablecloths.

I have concluded that birthday parties, while fun for kids to attend, are a big ol' pain to throw -- outta control in terms of the logistics and money. So I am adopting a new birthday mantra: Next Year In Disneyland, where I just found out by driving past a billboard today that kids get in FREE on their birthday. Yes, you read that right: FREE. And all you gotta do is show up.

Why didn't I know about this sooner?

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Happy Birthday Jake and Samantha!

as a present to your mommy let her nap during quiet time...


jen, michael and julia (the original non-napper)