Now that my children are school aged and have classmates and friends, I have been invited to a new kind of hell - The Birthday Party. These parties are usually held at some kid centered location like Chucky Cheese, Backyard Adventures, or a Fun Center. The birthday child invites their entire school class plus their siblings, plus any friends in other classes to the festivities. The meal served is always pizza and birthday cake, both ordered from the fun party location or from the nearest pizza chain. Once all of the guests arrive, the parents sit back while the nearly thirty children run bugged eyed from one play area to another. Hyped up on cake and carbohydrates, the frenzied "playing" continues for two to three hours until half of the children are in shrilly tears from one of two events. One, the children who begin to crash from their sugar coma are shoved down and then run over by the still intoxicated party goers who believe that they must get to the next play area before Johnny or life as they know it will end and they will spontaneously combust if they arrive second. Or two, a child finds some cheap toy made in a third world country by slave labor that costs 400 tickets and the said child has 28 tickets; as the parent tries to explain the mathematical difference of 400 and 28, the child fearing their parent is not understanding the life or death situation before them, begins screaming, yelling, and finally sobbing like Veruca Salt screaming for an Oompa-Loompa. (I still love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!)
If you find just reading this paragraph overwhelming, multiply that by 7,340,697,482,424 and now you can begin to grasp my anxiety and exhaustion in attending these events. Throw in that we attended one of these horror shows last night and have another today that includes a POOL and THIRTY TWO KIDS, and you can see where I might need to consume an entire bottle of Excedrin® Migraine in anticipation of this afternoon.
You can call me a party pooper - you wouldn't be the first, but I remember (yes, I am 210 years old!) when a birthday party was a few friends (less than ten) and my mother actually made the birthday cake. Thus far, I have been able to continue this old fashion birthday as KK was born right after Christmas and we have been in Maine with family during her birthday, and Hew has been too young to notice that he is bucking the norm and has been turning down the sibling invite for years. Now that they are both in school and are aware of how a "real" party should go down, I have already been receiving requests for "their party" even though we have more than a few months to go before either of them has a birthday.
So here my dilemma, how do I satisfy their need for a "real party" with my utter aversion and seizure reaction to the screaming, blinking strobe light party locations deemed the norm. We don't have a pool and I'm not inviting thirty kids plus parents to my house. I have thrown out the idea of a movie and they could each bring a few friends, which is getting a non-committed shrug from my daughter. I've also thought about throwing my kids into the land of societal weirdness by having a regular old fashion birthday at home with a handful of friends and their parents, making homemade pizza and cake, and setting up the favorites of pin the tail on the donkey, egg and spoon races, musical chairs, and dropping clothes pins into a mason jar. After all, these kids are under seven and are missing out on some historical cultural norms. How can you function in life if you haven't been spun around until nearly ill and then you try to pin some paper tail onto a poster?
So I am seeking suggestions - teach me Obi Wan how to compromise between the current norm and my sanity.