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It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To: Anatomy of a Toddler Birthday Bash

Kids’ birthday parties: love ‘em or hate ‘em, you certainly can’t hide from them. I know a lot of people think parents have gotten a little carried away with planning their kids’ birthday parties, but this is one mommy war issue that I feel compelled to take a stand on: I love birthdays, and I love parties. The bigger, the better. (Well, until you’ve reached Thomas J. Henry status. And then you might’ve gone just a wee bit too big.)

I don’t know what it looks like when you throw a party, but I’m betting it looks a little something like this:

Dinosaurs: always a solid theme for a toddler party!

Dinosaurs: always a solid theme for a toddler party!

Months Before Party: You’ve determined you are going to have a party for your toddler. It’s going to be a house party, as these things are, and it will be on a Saturday morning. Shocker. You’ve even got a theme in mind and have Googled said theme to confirm that coordinating decorations and party accessories are available. You don’t actually purchase any of these supplies because, well, that would just be silly. You’ve got SO MUCH TIME between now and then. Instead, you’ve walked away from your brainstorming sessions completely empty-handed but also completely convinced that your party will be the stuff of CatchMyParty.com legend.

Weeks Before Party: You can’t believe it’s already time, but you’ve got to get moving on those invitations! After days of overanalyzing deliberating, you decide to go with a hard copy invitation instead of an electronic one because, hey, you’re a masochist at heart. Why go the easy route and shoot everyone an email in a matter of minutes when you could instead spend hours trying to track down real live physical addresses and experience the joy that can only come from a visit to your local post office to buy stamps, those relics of days of yore.

Day Before R.S.V.P. Deadline: No one has responded to your beautiful invitation yet, and you start to panic. You’re having flashbacks to the heart-wrenching scene in the Bette Midler movie Stella where no one comes to her daughter’s birthday party. You begin to google “rent a friend” in a desperate effort to determine where you can hire extras, fillers, stand-ins, warm human bodies to come to your party. Your child will never know the difference! (Besides, you mainly invite people you like to her party anyway.)

Day of R.S.V.P. Deadline: You suddenly hear back (after a little gentle prodding) from most everyone. And great news—most everyone is coming!

Three Days Before Party: You are bleary-eyed at 1:30 A.M. lying in bed with your phone raised above your head, your tired finger frantically and repeatedly pressing “add to cart” on every single tacky party decoration you can find on Amazon. All sense of general rationality and financial responsibility escapes your body in these final moments before the Amazon Prime shipping deadline expires, and you hope and pray with every fiber in your body that the mystical forces behind Prime don’t fail you now.

Never underestimate the transformative power of a few extra streamers, balloons, and honeycomb balls.

Never underestimate the transformative power of a few extra streamers, balloons, and honeycomb balls.

11:55 P.M., Evening Before Party: You have officially reached the point in the “Company is Coming” video where instead of actually straightening/cleaning your house, you are just whirling around in circles about to short circuit. You have stopped questioning why you decided to have the party at your house instead of at a trampoline park like every other family in America and have started questioning your sanity in general. And let me tell you something: the questioning is legit. You are pretty much losing it at this point.

Morning of Party: You are racing around at 6:00 A.M. determined to finish the decorating before the children wake up. You are hanging streamers, balloons, and honeycomb balls from every surface imaginable in hopes that it will distract from the undeniable clutter that has consumed your house. You try not to examine or think about this clutter, as it clearly detracts from the mission of the day: to celebrate your sweet child. And yet, the self loathing is setting in as you realize you are probably more likely to be featured on a future episode of Hoarders than you are on My Super Sweet Sixteen.  

Hour Before Party: Ah, yes, the moment we all knew was coming: the last-minute cancellations. There is no excuse dramatic or far-fetched enough to extinguish your wrath. With each cancellation you receive—no matter how valid—you feel like you want to disavow that person from your life forever. How dare they miss this grand event over which you have slaved! How dare they do this to your family! If you were in the mafia, this is the point at which you would look that sorry excuse for a human being square in the eye and calmly but coldly declare, “You’re dead to me.”

Also, the text messages are now coming in so rapid fire that instead of individual chimes indicating a new text, you just hear one incessant stream of nerve-shattering noise coming from that beast that is your cell phone. You consider hurling it against a wall and then finishing the job with a few final whacks of the piñata stick but then realize you wouldn’t have a camera with which to commemorate this grand event and quickly scratch that idea. After all, your party can’t be featured on CatchMyParty.com without any pictures!

This is you, as your first guest is arriving - the hostess with the mostest.

This is you, as your first guest is arriving: the hostess with the mostest.

Party Start Time: As soon as you spot the first car pulling into the driveway, you sprint to your room to change from your sweat-stained “You Better Work, B” clothes into your decidedly more presentable “It’s Britney, B” party ensemble, swipe some lip gloss on your lips, and give your hair a final brush. You take a deep cleansing breath and plaster a relaxed yet exuberant smile across your face. Let’s get this party started!

Cake: Everything goes pretty much without incident until it’s time to sing “Happy Birthday” and round out the event with what everyone came for in the first place: the cake. Your guests are standing around waiting on you to present the birthday child with the cake, and you can’t find the freaking candle you “special ordered” three days ago and stored in your “special place” for freaking safekeeping. After a frenetic and exhaustive search for the candle leaves your entire kitchen ransacked and you feeling just a hair short of absolutely murderous, your usually feeble mind delights you with a useful thought. You race to your first child’s room and triumphantly retrieve the candle from their first birthday cake which is safely ensconced in a keepsake shadow box tacked to their bedroom wall. Victory is YOURS! And anyone who dares to point out that your child is actually turning 3 and not 1 can prepare to suffer the consequences.

Piñata (because, Texas): Frustrated with the kids’ weak and seemingly never-ending inability to punch an ample-sized hole into the swaying donkey to release the candy waiting inside, you silently will the master of ceremonies (aka: your husband) to hand the slaying stick to you. You’ll show that donkey a thing or two about what it really looks like to crack up at a party. On second thought, you reason, maybe it’s best the bat is kept squarely within the hands of the under-30 set.

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This is you as the last guest is leaving. No explanation necessary, right?

Post-Cake, Piñata, and Goodie Bags: You look around your backyard, which is now teeming with toddlers sprinting in circles while screaming at the top of their very powerful lungs, and once again throw shade on “science” and its claims that ingesting sugar doesn’t make kids hyper. This is the same science that claims mommy brain doesn’t exist and that having a black interior doesn’t make your car hotter on a Texas summer day. Scientists are idiots. And apparently so are you, because seriously, who voluntarily submits themselves to this sort of torture?

Thank You Notes: The party is over, you have peeled yourself off of the floor, and you think for a brief glistening moment that your work here is done. But then you look around and are reminded by the mountains of tissue paper and gift bags littering your floor that you have to write thank you notes for all of this brightly colored and generally useless plastic stuff that, by the way, you now also have to find a suitable place for in your already overcrowded home. Can we as moms just declare right here and now that text messages are an acceptable form of thank you notes? I mean, until our children are old enough to write their own thank you notes, naturally, at which point they will once again become compulsory? No? Well, OK. I guess I’ll just get started on those as soon as I’ve neatly folded and preserved all of these gift bags and tissue paper. In other words, don’t hold your breath.

In conclusion, I think my passion for throwing a good party is pretty evident here. It’s just hard to deny yourself the overwhelming feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction that come with knowing all your hard work brought so much joy to a child’s life…even if for only two short hours. Wait—why are you looking at me that way? What? It’s just me?

And this is you for the rest of the day...and possibly the next day too. TKO by toddler birthday party.

And this is you for the rest of the day…and possibly the next day too. TKO by toddler birthday party.

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One Response to It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To: Anatomy of a Toddler Birthday Bash

  1. Ginny HOGAN August 30, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

    Once again…right on!! Your humor and your wording is perfect!! Pictures are great too!!