More adventures in birthday partying

9 Mar

This weekend was just non-stop partying.  Friday night DynaGirl was invited to one of her BFF’s birthday/slumber party.  (We haven’t outlawed the slumber party completely at our house.  This particular friend lives two doors down from us and we’ve known the family for 8 years, so I have no problem with her sleeping over there.)  As usual, I waited until the last minute to take DynaGirl shopping for the gift.  Actually, I took DynaGirl and Goose shopping because they both had two birthday parties to go to this weekend.  Two birthday parties each! 

Friday afternoon we headed down to the “Webkinz” store.  It’s not really a Webkinz store, but it’s the closest place that sells these things, and lately that’s the go to present for my girls.  We can get one for $10 there and I think there are a lot worse things than Webkinz, so whatever.  The store had the latest Webkinz new releases there on Friday, which was, of course, ultra-exciting for my Webkinz crazed girls.  (Gees, how many times can I say Webkinz?  And I’m not even getting paid for this.)  They had no trouble finding what they wanted for their friends, but then Goose started asking if she could have one too, even insisting that she would use her own money.  Goose has plenty of money leftover from birthdays past.  She doesn’t really spend a lot of money, so I wasn’t entirely against her using her money for a toy she wanted even if she needs another Webkinz like she needs a hole in the head.  But for some reason, I have this unwritten rule about not allowing my kids to get presents for themselves when they’re shopping for their friends.  I’m not sure why—something about getting into the true spirit of giving, setting aside their own wants, etc.  It sounds good, right?  Goose was momentarily put out, but then she got over it.  She was really excited about the gift she was giving her friend, which is kind of the point for me, I guess.  I didn’t want her excitement for the giving to be eclipsed by the excitement of the getting. 

So Friday night, DynaGirl goes to her first party.  Then Saturday afternoon I take Goose down to her first party.  It’s about 20 minutes away at a local children’s museum.  We took Goose’s BFF (who also happens to live next door to us) down to the party with us.  She had also purchased the birthday girl a Webkinz (luckily a different one) and informed Goose that she had also bought one for herself.  Great.  Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with the BFF getting herself a gift while purchasing one for someone else.  I don’t expect everyone to follow the same arbitrary and quirky rules I have inflicted on my children for reasons not entirely known even to me.  To each her own, blah, blah, blah.  But it just seems to always happen this way—the BFF’s family doing the exact opposite of what we’re doing, and often in a similar timeframe so that my girls are left thinking that their mom is a total crazy meany-head or that their BFFs (the older sister is one of DynaGirl’s BFFs too) are spoiled brats.  And then I have to go out of my way to explain why the BFFs are not totally spoiled brats (however half-hearted of an exercise that may be) and how families just do things differently sometimes and that doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is right and someone is wrong, just different, and that just really puts me out.

While we’re on the subject, do you know what else puts me out?  The non-drop off birthday party.  Some of these are my fault, as I won’t drop off my kids when I don’t know anything about the family or the home environment.  I have been extremely grateful more than once for not having done so.  Remember this?  So there are those kinds of birthday parties, and then there are also those other ones that are held in a public place that don’t provide adequate supervision like this party at the local children’s museum.  This place was packed.  Kids were running from one activity to another.  I had a hard enough time just keeping track of Goose.  I can’t imagine having to keep track of my own kid plus a half a dozen or so other random kids that I may or may not have met for the first time 20 minutes ago. 

Despite being slightly put out by the having to hang out at a random kid’s birthday party, I was glad that I had brought Goose because the birthday girl was one of the sweetest kids I have ever met.  I have never seen such a polite and gracious display of little kid birthday party gift-opening in all of my life, I think.  She took her time with each gift, carefully opening and reading the card, saying thank you, then carefully opening the gift, exclaiming her happiness over the awesomeness of the gift, saying thank you again and then taking a moment to really look at and appreciate the gift before moving on to the next present.  I was extremely impressed.  The mom was very nice, too.  She was very welcoming and a very gracious hostess.  My only complaint (well, not complaint, really—more of a well, I don’t know, just let me finish and you can see for yourself) was that the mom was a laugher, like a nervous laugher.  Every time I talked to her she had this kind of constant giggle/laugh thing going on between all of her sentences.  It was just a little odd.  Not creepy odd.  Not even really uncomfortable odd.  Just kind of like, OK, this woman won’t stop with the fakish-sounding laughing.  I still thought she was very, very nice, and she’s obviously doing something very right to have raised such a sweetheart of a kid.

Goose had to leave that party a little early to catch the end of her next party.  I kept telling myself that I should have made her just choose one of the parties, only she had accepted the invitation for the one before knowing about the other, and the second one was really the better friend and the one she reeeeally wanted to go to plus also DynaGirl had two parties going on that weekend that didn’t involve any scheduling conflict and I didn’t think it was fair to let her go to both and make Goose choose nor did I think it fair to make DynaGirl choose one because Goose’s parties inconveniently overlapped.  It’s just so hard being a mother.  Goose’s second party was for a little boy in her class.  It was one of those big family shindigs with all kinds of random relatives and friends and just a couple of classmates.  She was the only girl, but she didn’t seem to mind.  There were bottles all over the place, but I was pleased to note that they were all sparkling cider.  No drunk lesbian grandmas at this party.  Bummer.  The little boy was also a decent gift receiver.  He did tear into every gift, but he also very profusely thanked every gift giver whether the present was a toy or clothes.  I thought that was cool.  He wasn’t completely excited about his Grandma’s gift bag, though.  It was a brown paper grocery sack with a few fun, unwrapped gifts that he thought were really cool, but when he got down to the bottom of the bag and pulled out an exercise video and a nightgown he was a little confused.  Apparently, she had just thrown everything into one sack, including his gift and a couple things she had brought for some other family member.  The look on his face when he pulled out that granny nighty was classic.

I left Goose at that party with instructions that her dad would be picking her up in 30 minutes, and then took DynaGirl to her last party, which was about 20 minutes away at a local bouncy house party center.  Another non-drop off party.  I didn’t know the family of the birthday girl, plus these kinds of places are notorious for setting off DynaGirl’s asthma, and call me kooky, but I like to stay close in situations that might involve my children not being able to breathe very well.  I had brought a book, but sitting on a bench in a big warehouse filled with kids screaming and bouncing is not the best reading environment.  After the bouncing the party headed upstairs for pizza, cake and gift opening.  DynaGirl couldn’t have the pizza (food allergies) and we always BHOC (bring her own cupcake—food allergies).  She’s used to it, and I don’t mind because I don’t expect people to make special accommodations for my allergy-stricken child.  But the gift opening part was obnoxious.  This little girl was like the antithesis of the little girl from Goose’s party.  She tore through every gift, barely pausing to open the card.  When she was done she handed off the gift to her mother and then screamed, “Next!”  OB-noxious.  After opening one gift she said, “I already have this.  OK, who wants it?  Gift up for grabs!”  Her mother tried to stop her, but she just kept saying, “But I already have this!  I don’t need it!”  I was humiliated for that mother. 

It’s been awhile since I was that happy to leave a birthday party.  And between the birthday girl and a few other of the party attendees, I left thinking about how much I really don’t like other people’s children.  I know, that’s awful.  But seriously.  Obviously, there are exceptions, but for the most part I am just really grateful for my own kids.

Wow, this was a really long post about nothing exciting.  I don’t blame you if you skimmed.  I’m actually hoping you skimmed.  That’s like two mintues of your life you’ll never get back.  But if you made it all the way down here to the bottom, what are your feelings about buying a gift for yourself and the birthday person at the same time?  The drop off vs. non-drop off?  Nervous laughers?  Granny nighties for little boys?  Other people’s children?

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22 Responses to “More adventures in birthday partying”

  1. Susan M March 9, 2009 at 12:13 pm #

    I read the whole thing, but in bits and pieces while working. It keeps me sane to have something to break away to.

    When my kids were small I hated when they had friend’s birthday parties to go to because we were so poor, it was always hard to want to spend the money on a gift. I don’t think I ever really had a choice as to whether to get my kids something, too. But maybe I’ve just forgotten. My memory’s not the greatest.

    I dropped my kids off at parties though. I hate people.

    And yeah, I’m not that fond of other people’s kids, if they’re annoying. But there have been some I’d gladly adopt, they’re so awesome.

  2. janelle March 9, 2009 at 12:21 pm #

    I’m the mom who gets evil looks from other moms when I treat the party like a drop off party when apparently it was not supposed to be. Why don’t they just tell me on the invitation what is expected of me? I know when I throw a party I don’t want any other adults around. But we always have parties at home.

    Ugh! Sleepovers. We have already made a no sleepover rule except for church activities but I doubt we’ll stick to that because Elizabeth has some very safe friends.

    Ungrateful kids are a tough one. I know good parents who just have rude kids. But I can guarantee the girl you wrote about will end up being a serious bridezilla.

  3. madhousewife March 9, 2009 at 12:33 pm #

    I hate non-drop-off parties. And by “hate,” I mean “HATE.”

    Nervous laughers are not so bad. Unless they’re at a non-drop-off party, in which case I HATE them. (Just kidding.)

    Other people’s children are sometimes better than mine. But occasionally worse. I like the occasionally worse ones because they make me feel better about my own. Also, I enjoy punching the obnoxious ones in the face. (Kidding again! That’s just a Scrubs-like fantasy sequence. Those are enjoyable in their own right, though.)

    Granny nighties for little boys = awesome. It would make a non-drop-off party totally worth it.

    I hadn’t given any thought to sleepover parties until just now. Seriously, just this minute. My kids have been sleeping over at other people’s houses since they were very little, but the families have always been “safe,” so I’ve never given any thought to “what if they’re not ‘safe.'” PZ actually just spent the night at a friend’s house on Friday, and I barely know those people. We’ve had the daughter over to our house a couple of times, though (overnight), so it SEEMS like we know them. But we really don’t. It’s probably a good thing my kids don’t get invited to other people’s houses much.

  4. madhousewife March 9, 2009 at 12:34 pm #

    I’m with Janelle – I don’t want other adults at a party I’m throwing. They cramp my style. We always have parties at home, too.

  5. Kamilli Vanilli March 9, 2009 at 12:45 pm #

    This must be the month of birthday parties because Wonderella has a ton of parties to go to this month too.

    I’ll tell you what I hate….I hate the fact that birthday parties have become these HUGE things where parents are expected to pay hundreds of dollars on renting some place out or doing some grandiose thing. What happened to the parties where you played pin the tail on the donkey, musical chairs, ate some cake, opened some presents, got a goodie bag, and called it good? That’s what I yearn for. But now if you do that, then your kid is some social pariah with a lame-arse party. That’s alright…I still do it anyways. Since all my kids are December babies, maybe one of these years, I should be really lame and have a big party for all of them combined. Maybe then I could justify spending money on some big thing.

    And I don’t like non-drop off parties. What a waste of time. And I think you know how I feel about other people’s children….besides yours of course…. There’s a reason why we love our kids. Cuz no one else can be expected to.

  6. bythelbs March 9, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    Susan—I just drop off my kids whenever I can. I have to feel uneasy about a place before I’ll refuse to drop off.

    I don’t ever purchase gifts for my kids when we’re birthday party shopping for someone else—my quirky thing is that I won’t even let them spend their own money when they’re supposed to be shopping for someone else.

    Sometimes I do come across another kid of awesomeness. It warms my cold, cold heart.

    Janelle—I totally did not understand the lingering adult thing when my kids first started going to parties. I prefer people to drop off their kids when the party’s at our house, and I’m all over the drop off when I feel reasonably comfortable.

    I really liked the mother of the total bratty kid. She seemed like a very sweet woman. It seems unfair. Why do bad kids happen to good people? Just kidding. I really do like children. In theory. Kidding again. Sort of. I just can’t help myself!

    Sleepovers are a tough one for me. My girls have both slept over at our next door neighbors houses. We know the families very well, they have similar standards, we’ve been in their homes a lot and feel comfortable. I won’t do random friends from school sleepovers partly because of my experience with sleepovers when I was a kid. All kinds of stuff went on at those houses that I would not want my own children to be exposed to. I kept most of it to myself because I didn’t want to be banned from the sleepovers. My mom would have been horrified had she known. (Think ouija boards, skinny dipping pool parties–that I did not participate in–and R-rated movies–seriously R rated!).

    Mad—I also occasionally enjoy the less than awesome child because it makes my child seem more awesome. And I also enjoy the occasional indulging in Scrubs-like fantasies. So I don’t know what I was even complaining about.

    And I don’t like feeling like I have to entertain (and feed!) adults at my kids birthday parties. But I guess I can’t blame them for sticking around if they don’t know me from Adam. (Or Eve—though, with my track record, Adam works too.) Still, I think I give off a very safe and trustworthy vibe, but maybe I’m delusional. Hmmm…perhaps a woman who entertains the idea that she might be delusional isn’t so safe and trustworthy after all.

  7. bythelbs March 9, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    Kamilli—The big to-dos make me uncomfortable. Bouncy houses and limo rides and the like. I also don’t like it when my children come home with goody bags that cost more than the gift we gave. But who am I to say how other people should spend their money?

  8. Patience March 9, 2009 at 2:04 pm #

    I don’t have any policy about not buying presents for yourself when buying a gift for someone else, but then, it’s never come up as an issue before. I can see why you are turned off by the “a gift for you, a gift for me” mentality though.

    I definitely prefer drop-off parties, but I wish parents would just make their expectations clear about whether you’re supposed to stay or not. My kids are all old enough that it’s not an issue anymore, but it used to be.

  9. tawnya March 9, 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    I’m generally opposed to other people’s children…eh. Children in general most of the time. There’s a reason I was 32 when I had my one & only in a church where that isn’t very common! Where’s my lesson in RS about not liking kids and not being maternal?

  10. Alison Wonderland March 9, 2009 at 3:32 pm #

    I’m also not a fan of other people’s children.

    We don’t do sleepovers with anyone who’s not family.

    And reading these posts makes me glad that my children are rarely invited to birthday parties. (I’m not sure why that is, I think my kids have friends. Actually I think it’s more a function of being in a lower income neighborhood, people can’t afford big birthday parties.)

  11. bythelbs March 9, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    Patience—Yes, I appreciate knowing what’s expected of me, though, I suppose that makes it a little harder to play dumb when I don’t want to do what’s expected of me.

    Tawnya—Some of us are kid people and some of us are not. I definitely don’t have a problem with that. Except for those non-kid people who decide to go into teaching. Kids. Why? I would appreciate a RS lesson on not being maternal and also on not wanting to clean your house or cook or go to church. Kidding on the last one. Mostly.

    Alison—My kids seem to get invited to a lot of parties. I don’t think it’s always about how many friends they have—sometimes they seem to just be included in these blanket invitations to the whole class. I try to discourage my kids from going to the parties where the birthday boy/girl has invited the entire class, especially when I know my kid doesn’t particularly enjoy the other kid. What’s the point of that? Although, I can think of a couple instances when my kid did end up going to a party of someone who wasn’t a particularly good friend and they ended up being one of two people who attended. Having no one show up to your birthday party is sad.

  12. tawnya March 9, 2009 at 4:39 pm #

    That would be the best attended lesson. Ever.

  13. Susan M March 9, 2009 at 5:05 pm #

    I’d actually want to go to RS if you were all there.

  14. shazza March 9, 2009 at 8:28 pm #

    I’m in the middle of planning Sage’s party for this weekend (literally…I clicked over here from the family fun website…) and now I’m feeling all nervous and freaked out about it. And my kids. And my RS lesson for Sunday. And my tendency to punch others in the face. I’m going back to reading about friendship bracelets…

  15. foofer March 9, 2009 at 8:59 pm #

    Any chance somebody snapped a picture of that boy pulling out the granny nightie? That’s priceless. I remember going to one birthday party when I was in fifth grade where the birthday girl got underwear. Oh, and it was a coed party. I was extremely uncomfortable, but probably not as uncomfortable as the birthday girl.

    Rude girl needs a serious smack, though. I don’t know what she looks like, but I’ve got a picture in my head and am coming up with all sorts of fantasies about her getting what she deserves. My favorite is one in which the giver of the unwanted present grabs it and then proceeds to use it to smack rude girl upside the head. Yeah! Smack some gratitude into that little princess!

    I do agree with you about the “no buying for yourself when you’re shopping for others” rule. That one is most strictly enforced during Christmas shopping.

    I’m okay with parents hanging around at a party as long as they don’t expect me to have an extra cupcake for them. Not that I wouldn’t have extra cupcakes. It’s just that those are for me — a reward for getting through the party. Although I don’t really do parties these days. I just let Merkin take them to the City Museum. Yes, we’re that family, but we don’t allow the guest list to exceed what we can get in on the membership without paying extra, so admission is pretty much free. And the cupcakes are always for the staff — not the kids. That’s why they love us there.

  16. tawnya March 10, 2009 at 7:10 am #

    Oh, Sharon. Man…that comment killed me! Ha!

  17. bythelbs March 10, 2009 at 7:50 am #

    Susan—This group of ladies would make the most awesome RS ever!

    Shazza—You’re awesome. Good luck with the party planning!

    Foofer—“I’m okay with parents hanging around at a party as long as they don’t expect me to have an extra cupcake for them. Not that I wouldn’t have extra cupcakes. It’s just that those are for me — a reward for getting through the party.” Love this!

  18. E March 10, 2009 at 8:55 am #

    I don’t let my kids buy themselves anything. Not just when we’re shopping for someone else though. I don’t ever let them spend money. My goal is to raise them to be exactly like their father and never be able to spend money on anything ever. Being married to someone like that is totally awesome! (Especially since his eccentricity is not usually imposed on me.)

    And we don’t do sleepovers even with “safe” families ’cause I never want to have to differentiate. I don’t want to have to say, “I let you spend the night with Susie because I trust her parents. You can’t sleep at Mary’s ’cause I don’t trust hers.”

  19. bythelbs March 10, 2009 at 9:12 am #

    E—I can totally understand not wanting to have to differentiate between “safe” and “not safe” families. I usually use the excuse of how well we KNOW families without saying words like “safe” or “trust”. But I think I’m actually OK with my kids learning what it means to trust someone or how to determine the safest situations. It would be really important that they understand that just because we don’t know someone well, that doesn’t mean that they’re probably a bad person. It just means we need to get to know them better.

    I’ve always told my kids, whether they’re going to a friend’s house just to play or even their cousin’s house, if they ever feel like they need or want to come home for any reason, they can call and I will come get them.

  20. cheryl March 10, 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    I read this whole post.

    But not the comments.

    And all I have to say is this:

    I hate big parties.
    My kids don’t buy themselves stuff (they don’t know they can spend their own money, yet –woot!).
    I hate the non-drop off unless they are old.
    My kids aren’t allowed to go to sleepovers (except family), but if it was at Bythelbs’ house, I would totally let them sleep over. 🙂
    I love blogging.
    I hate celery.
    That is all.

  21. flip flop mama March 10, 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    I know I’m a day behind on this but I still read everything. We haven’t really had to deal with the sleep over thing being that my only kid is 4. She sleeps over at her grandma and grandpa’s houses but hasn’t ever spent the night at anyone else’s. There are a few friends though that I wouldn’t think twice about letting her spend the night at if she was older. Also I’m totally with Kamilli. B-Day parties are way to big for me these days. I’m totally a low key partier. Let the kids entertain themselves! lol Anyway, I’m just blabbing now….

  22. boquinha March 14, 2009 at 3:15 pm #

    By the way, I’ve told the story about the obnoxious kid to a couple of people already and one mother (who is really strict with her very awesome kids) was HORRIFIED. She was quite audibly gasping in mortified horror at the very thought.

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