My 4-year-old has been invited to some birthday parties lately that would make any Pinterest mom proud. They included beautiful invitations and adorable themes. Compared to the way I do parties, these super moms are offering the equivalent of unicorn rides, pirate ships with actual treasure and gurgling chocolate fountains as lovely parting gifts.
I’m going to be honest here. I don’t enjoy hosting these events. At all.
Don’t get me wrong — I love to see my kids having fun on their special day. But the struggle of facilitating a kid's birthday party is real for this non-Pinterest, barely-cuts-construction-paper-at-a-fifth-grade-level mom. Whether I plan a birthday party at home or at a bouncy destination, it is sure to be wildly uncomfortable for me.
When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, she invited her whole class to a party at our house. I procured a pinata, locked down a clown (don’t judge me; clowns were less menacing back then) and put together 20 gift bags full of crappy toys and bottom-shelf candy.
(Side note: Gift bags are a racket. Why do we give presents to the kids who are not having a birthday? Personally, I think it’s a bribe to get them to leave. “You can have your gift bag when you’re walking out the door and not a minute sooner, Brayden.”)
I foolishly believed I had it planned to the point of it going off without a hitch (insert maniacal laughter here). But who could’ve planned for my daughter to yank my son’s arm out of its socket moments before the party, sending one of us to the ER with a screaming boy while the other took on the spirited kindergarten crowd alone? And how could we have known that the second the pinata broke open, the entire class would descend upon the candy like predators on prey, leaving my daughter sobbing with stick-in-hand as she failed to get a single piece of sugary goodness?
And can we talk about the fact that the party hosts are pretty much held hostage by the junior-sized attendees? When you host a birthday party for the kiddos, you’re in a precarious position because you have absolutely no disciplinary authority over a group of children who you’re wholly responsible for. You are powerless, and it’s like those rugrats can smell it.
They just know.
One year we had a party for one of my boys at The Amazing Pizza Machine. I was super jazzed about this option because someone else facilitated the cake-cutting and clean-up so when it was over we could just leave. Easy, right?
Except, when an invitee refused to stay with our group, who had to chase that little fella all over the enormous indoor carnival to ensure he didn’t just hot wire a car and ditch our celebratory event entirely? It wasn't any Amazing Pizza Machine employees I'll tell you that. When we were bold enough to use strong words and insist he stay with our party, he kicked my husband. Yes, kicked. There was nothing for us to do but say, "Please don’t do that," and move our vulnerable shins out of range of his cowboy boots.
That party also included kids squirting juice boxes at each other and kids getting scared and stuck in the Playdaze tunnels. When that happened, my 6-feet, 5-inch-tall husband was forced to traverse the hamster maze to rescue them.
I’ve yet to have a party where I’m not counting down the minutes until the little angels’ parents arrive to retrieve them. So my question is this: Do the amazing Pinterest moms ever get kicked? Do these things happen to other party-hosting parents? Or am I just doing it wrong?
Lynn Kirkle is a writer and lives in Omaha with her husband and five children. She writes twice a month for momaha.com, and can be found on Twitter @LAPainter.