How to Crush a Child’s Party (in a good way)
I created this miniseries for three reasons – I love my kids, I love a good party, and I hate disorganization and avoidable chaos. Hate is a strong word, but its the right word. This first entry is a sprinkle of my initial thoughts to be followed by additional party learnings. Enjoy!
Note from the author: Annually I host four children’s birthday parties, nine happy hours, one Christmas Eve open house and a smattering of baby showers, Baptism brunches and miscellaneous gatherings of people I adore and tolerate. Practice makes peaceful, I say. And the more often you host, the more effortless it becomes, extrovert or introvert. What follows focuses on kids parties – always begun with the greatest intentions and just sopping with possibilities of unimaginable chaos. If done right then, like the tightrope walker, glory awaits those who dare to host.
1. You can do it all… But don’t.
And frankly, you don’t have to in this day and age.
If your cupcake game isn’t particularly strong, outsource. To be sure, your local grocer can perfect some pint size confections to wow. Worried your party goers will judge you? Check your guest list. They shouldn’t have been invited in the first place.
If you’ve willingly invited haters into your house, shame on you. Not too different from leaving scraps out and hoping you’ll get a cockroach infestation. Who does that? Not you. Time to put your big girl panties on and stop it. Who loves you? Who will come over even when your hot water pipes have frozen, your crew has a stomach bug, your washer is down, the kitchen floor could grow weeds and the dog just barfed on the ‘welcome’ mat? (Thanks, Emily. You’re my girl). First off, we’re all too fabulous to waste time on judgmental “friends.” And two, I promise you if they’re judging me for store-bought cupcakes, they’ve got no bandwidth for the real awesomeness that could raise an eyebrow like my rhinestone Pegasus earrings or for that one time I let my kids eat Cheetos off the dining room floor rather than sweeping. One time.
B. Specialize – and run with it.
I’ll openly admit that my cooking skills are basic at best. Frozen pizza? Check. Ramen? The best. Toast? Well, that’s burnt most likely. But I can fashion a purple Minion piñata the size of an overgrown toddler like a champ (the video was in Spanish, but I think I nailed it, thank you very much). All I need is copious amounts of tissue paper, hot glue, Chardonnay and streaming episodes of Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders Training Camp (my not so secret shame show). So, I champion that – and leave the menu child friendly. Burgers, pizza, hot dogs – the kids aren’t picky and neither am I. Plus when they walk in and see a washing machine box transformed into Buzz Lightyear’s Spaceship, they’re like “what food?” What’s your best? Do that – blow it out of the park – and let the rest of your fiesta shine by glow proximity.
3. Leave NOTHING for last minute.
First, let’s define “last minute” with a basic time telling lesson. When it comes to entertaining with and for kids, take whatever time you think you have and divide it by 37 times the number of children in your family. Por ejemplo: Our party starts at 1pm and its currently 9am which in my house means I’ve already been awake for three hours and am in no way properly caffeinated – so that’s four hours to prepare in real time. In my single days, that would mean sufficient time to get my nails done, chill the adult beverages and make heart shaped cheeses for the crudité. However, I have four children ages one to six. SO…….. 4 hours/(37×4) = 1.62 minutes. I have exactly 1.62 minutes to prepare for the deluge of toddlers and maxed out parents about to descend on my house. (much love, ya’ll). Time to shower? No. Time to frost cupcakes? Negative. Time to make coordinating food labels? Sweetie, please.
And why don’t I have time for that? Because with each additional child comes a significant dose of chaos they’ve brewed special for just this day. Believe the rumors, this is the day your three-year-old will potty-train regress all over your entryway minutes before your first guest arrives. This is the day your dog will dramatically confess to eating that block of sharp cheddar last night – in a big way. This is the day the baby won’t nap, your breast pump will stop working, you’ll find the grill is out of propane, the power will go out, and those gentle breezes from earlier this morning will transform into Hurricane Bad Timing, your party tent will blow over and your former outdoor party will be crammed into all 50 square feet of dining room. Ever hang a piñata from your skylight? I have. Thrice. Carpe Diem Chaos Agents! I love each and every one of you, but for the love?! Couldn’t this have waited until any given Tuesday?
So do EVERYTHING ahead of time. Fold those napkins. Cut those veggies. Chill that lemonade. Clean that bathroom. Nothing – NADA – should be left for day of and if it is? Bag it. Set up every item possible – all the decorations, the dishes, plan that playlist. Weeks in advance. My family room was smothered in Halloween décor by early August in planning for our littlest’s 1st bday. Think you don’t have time? Ask yourself this – do you have several uninterrupted hours straight to dedicate to this fiesta? Check your job title lady – ‘Parent’ – so no, no you do not have that kind of time and neither do I. But I do have fifteen minutes a day to do a little here and there. I do have twenty minutes after they’ve gone to bed to get some things straight. Plus shouting at the birthday boy moments before his big day begins is no way to start a party (Mommy is so sorry buddy).
The big reason this insanity happens is that kids are major detectors of stress – namely, yours. They will deftly pick up on the fact that you’re walking a little faster than usual, making less eye contact, and whispering craziness under your breath like “where did I leave that bright pink duct tape?” And sensing your limited mental resources, they will up their game in a big way. Its like when sharing a milkshake – as the group senses they’re about to reach the bottom of the glass, they all start sucking on their straws harder – in this case like Attention Vampires. Which leads me to my next Ruckus Rule.
4. Get childcare.
For those of you blessed with nearby family members, call them. Have the kids go to grandma’s for the morning if you can. Or in my case, call a sitter and have her play with your crew while you prep the morning of. Find someone who can be solely responsible for their needs (ex. 1,000 sippy cup refills, that last minute desperate need to wear the Wolverine costume, the 40th episode of Thomas) so that a) you don’t have to be and b) you don’t end up shouting at your crew (see above confession) which will in turn result in high therapy costs later in life, social hermitage and your kids’ association with hosting parties and mommy madness.
Rules of Ruckus: In the next installment – Balloons: The ultimate kiddie party killjoy.