Friday, January 19, 2007



So. Birthday parties. My parenting manual seems to be missing the chapter on birthday parties (I may have used them to scoop up the dog barf from the living room carpet last week) and I find myself a little unsure of the protocols.

First issue: other kids' birthday parties. Now that Tristan is in school, he's started to be invited to the birthday parties of kids in his class. This is fine and dandy for him, who gets to simply show up and play games and eat cake, but not so fine for his socially repressed and angst-ridden mother. First of all, he's four (almost five) years old. I'm not so fond of the idea of simply dropping him off at some strangers' house for a couple of hours, but I'm even less impressed at the idea of accompanying him and trying to make small talk for two hours with people I've never met before, people who are undoubtedly not going to be their very best selves what with a house full of junior-kindergarteners hepped up on sugar terrorizing the place.

Do I just drop him off or do I plan to accompany him? What if the party is not in a house, but at one of these Cosmic Adventures / Chuck E Cheese kind of places?

Second issue: the boys' birthdays fall a little less than five weeks apart. Is there a precedent for joint birthday parties? Can I have the same cake at both parties, since they both say they want a "Cars" cake? (Their favourite part of a trip to the grocery store is pressing their noses up against the cake display and discussing the relative merits of each design, then following up with a free cookie.) And, horror of horrors, can I have a party for one and not for the other? (I imagine this will be the last possible year I might get away with this.)

Third issue: who do you invite to a birthday party? They're too young to have natural sets of friends yet - when do you transition to inviting kids of your child's choice from kids attached to parents you are friends with? Because Simon's birthday is first (two weeks from yesterday), we've gotten organized enough to invite my cousin's son, the boys' godparents and their daughter, and my brother and sister-in-law are coming from out of town with their two kids . Perfect number of kids for a three year old, IMHO, and a great crowd because (a) the adults outnumber the kids and (b) I dearly love all of them.

My brother won't be able to make it back for Tristan's birthday at the beginning of March, and I worry that Tristan will notice that we had a party for Simon's birthday but not for his. But I'm not sure I want to start manufacturing a party and inviting his classmates because I'm unfamiliar with all the protocol (see first issue above.) And I'm equally reluctant to either have a house full of sugar-crazed five year olds or fork over hundreds of dollars to let one of the party places host it for us. And if you don't invite the whole class, how do you choose when it's not obvious which kids your child is close to? And even if we only stick with kids at the daycare, there are too many of them and can I invite some without inviting them all? And do I have to invite the 18 month old little sister of one of his daycare buddies if I invite her big brother, one of the ones I would be comfortable inviting? And, back to question one, should I expect their parents to join us for the duration?

And all that before we even get into what kind of party to have, and what to do, and what to serve...

As you can see, I'm ill-equipped to deal with the trauma of birthday parties. Your input on any or all of the above questions (I think I'm wearing out the question mark on my keyboard) would be greatly appreciated. Don't do it for me, do it for my poor boys, blissfully oblivious as they are to their mother's haplessness.

*What Would Bloggers Do?