Whatever happened to birthday parties where pin the tail on the donkey and piñatas were rad? All we needed was a turntable, some tunes and a disco dance party. We would binge on juice packed with nutrients like high fructose corn syrup. We would chug Hi-C and CoolAid until our tongues were beet red for at least 24 hours. Cool whip was a staple, topping ice cream, pies and even cake.
Now, parents come up with elaborate crafts and hire a Jedi, princess or even a petting zoo. The goodie bags are almost always better than the birthday gifts. Simple sugary goodness has often been substituted with Splenda, gluten-free or, if you’re lucky, fruit salad. Come on, birthdays are the one time you’re allowed to eat whatever you want, when you’re a kid. I remember feeling sick after almost every birthday party I went to. It was a right of passage.
Maybe it starts early in the year, I thought. The first parents throw a pretty good bash. Maybe just a bouncy house and some pizza. Then, the second parents add another module to the party, like an intricate craft that only the parents can really do. Then, the third decide they want to have the party at Pump it Up, the premium bounce house with slides and obstacle courses. It’s basically a giant petri dish and your kid is almost guaranteed a day off of school along with their goodie bag.
What’s the prize for this competition? Absolutely nothing, nada, an empty bank account. I decided I would never be a parent who sacrificed extra dollars in my daughter’s 529 for a silly, birthday bash. No way, Jose. Not me. (Who is Jose anyway and why does everyone, including myself, always tell him “no way”?) Well, that was until last week.
My daughter is turning 4 in August. Being the planner that I am, I decided I would get a head start on her old school, homemade birthday party. We would have a BBQ and a few, fun games. Nice and simple. She would never be spoiled by these ridiculously elaborate birthdays her friends were granted. Shut the door, Jose. We’re just not interested.
I started to search the web for good, old fashioned party games and came across a website that had a really cool, dinosaur bounce house. Two dinosaur heads stuck out of the top. My daughter loves dinosaurs so I thought to myself, “what’s the harm in having a simple bounce house? It’s just one, extra treat for her.”
Then, I came across an ad link to hire a Disney Princess for a birthday party. My daughter loves Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The princess would sing, play the violin and tell a story. I thought to myself, “How wonderful would that be? She would be ecstatic. We just won’t eat out for a month. Let’s get the princess.”
When searching the web for recipes, I came across a cookbook with all Disney Princess recipes. I thought to myself, “How perfect? We can make all of the hors d’oeuvres together. It will be a bonding experience.”
Wait a minute. Hors d’oeuvres at a 4 year old birthday party? Wait a minute. $225 for a princess, not including tip? Wait a minute. $100 for a bounce house? Scratch that. $160 for a bounce house because we need a generator? Not to mention all of the food for the BBQ and all of the alcohol I would need to just get through the big day.
I could feel the beads of sweat trickle down my forehead from the light bulb that just sprung out of it. These Pump-it-Up-party parents are geniuses, I realized. Why do all of the work when you can pay someone else and your kid still thinks you’re really cool?
Rather than hand out the flu along with the goodie bags, I decided to have her birthday at Happy Hollow. It’s outside. They’ve got rides, pizza packages and they even provide the paper products and utensils. I just have to show up with a cake and a birthday girl.
We are now eating in for the next 3 months, I’m only allowed two buck chuck wine from Trader Joe’s and no one is allowed to get sick and go to the doctor, but I think it’s worth my sanity.