Kermet Apio on birthday parties, the dreaded bouncy house, and gift bags filled with toys that implode like a Mission Impossible cassette.
There are many things you truly can’t be prepared for in parenthood, and every parent has a different top 10. But the one that will, for most parents, be in everyone’s top 3 is the Birthday Party. For those of you who are new parents, the kid birthday party is like Fight Club, no one tells you about it and when you do find out about it, it’s going to mess with your brain. I will probably get attacked in an alley just for writing this.
The kid’s birthday party has definitely evolved. The days when people would come over and the kids would play while the adults got drunk and played poker has, surprisingly, become frowned upon. Today it has become a juggernaut of structure and procedure. Printed invitations, RSVP’s, information sheets, Pentagon requisition forms, 1099 Schedule C copies, etc. Do you love your child? Well, you need to show it by putting in more effort than you did on your wedding.
The choices of where to have the party vary from bouncy houses to family fun centers to bouncy houses to You-pick farms, to ceramic painting, to bouncy houses, to bowling, to pony rides, and of course, bouncy houses. Don’t run from it. At some point, the bouncy house place will get your money. Oh yes. They will. That truth has now wedged itself between death and taxes because today more people pay for bouncy house time than pay taxes. For those of you who don’t know what a bouncy house place is, how is life on your planet? Are you a hostile species? Seriously though, if you don’t know, just Google “Lawsuit waiting to happen.”
No matter which activity you choose, it usually works like this: You have an hour of chosen activity, then an hour of crappy food, high-pitched noise, and telling every kid but yours that those presents are not for them. You are assigned one or two jaded, dead-souled, bad-decision-regretting teenagers who regurgitate the rules followed the Guinness Book world record for most forced smile and a semi-hearty “You guys ready to have some fun?” asked in the same way comedians ask “How you guys doing tonight?” every single night.
The thing that freaks me out the most is the drop off aspect. People I don’t know just leave their kids with me. It’s weird that somehow our kids attending the same school and enjoying fart jokes at recess makes me qualified to care for your child. I realize it’s a tacit agreement. You take my kid for two hours and when my kid has a birthday you go enjoy a nap, movie, TV sporting event, Latte (with wifi), frat party, etc. But I think we’re overlooking this. I mean, it’s me. Who do you think taught them the fart jokes? Half the kids at this party have a comedian for a parent. But yeah, leave him with Uncle Late Show and his hangover.
You need to know something. Something as horrific as it is true. You have to have a “gift bag” for every kid who comes. Not kidding. Every kid, who has already bounced and eaten for free, gets gifts. I know. Take some time to calm down. Go take a walk and breathe. Okay, welcome back. To the rescue comes a website called, and I’m not kidding, “Oriental Trading Company.” Now, before you get offended consider that a) It was probably named before we made the transition and b) looking at the quality of their stuff and where it is made, calling them “Asian” may offend Asians. Basically, they sell gift bag filler toys that, like a Mission Impossible cassette, somehow implode after 15 seconds of use. The magic of this is that when it happens the kids are in their cars, covered in sweat, filled up with sugar, and safely out of my ‘having to care” radius. And all for under $3 a bag.
The opening of the presents makes you realize that there should be a word that’s stronger than the word “chaos.” It also makes you realize that whatever Justin Bieber pays his bodyguard, it’s not nearly enough. Shout out to my homey. Here’s an idea. Let’s do the present opening on Skype, so all the kids can watch from their respective homes and I don’t have to constantly move around wedging, leaning, and falling like the scenes during the credits of a Jackie Chan movie.
As the rested or entertained or caffeinated or buzzed parents return, you start to realize the ordeal is nearly over. You tell yourself you’re not doing this again. Then you laugh. Then cry. Then laugh maniacally. This moment signals the dead-souled teenager to awaken as he begins to realize he is a cleanup and a bus ride away from some serious Grand Theft Auto 5. He quickly brings out the financing agreement for you to sign and after 10 years of payments the party belongs solely to you.
I tell you all this not only because I think you should know, but because when I say I need you to RSVP, I mean it. Oh, and also because it’s a cry for help.
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photo by mimsmithfaro / flickr