I have recently been on the receiving end of many birthday party woes. Debacle on top of debacle, with friends calling or emailing for input on how to handle: duplicate parties, over-booked kids, parties during nap times, and keeping everyone smiling while on the inside you are seething.
The answer, my friends, is I don’t really know. There will always be three sides to every story—and in an ideal world there are two: a right way and a wrong way. Unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world, and well, try rationalizing with toddlers about ANYTHING.
Still, I have tried my best to come up with some PC solutions for birthday debacles and party fiascos. I can’t guarantee it’s all kumbaya and happy go lucky. But think about it this way: your real friends will always be just that, and getting bent out of shape over a toddler birthday party is, well, a bit over-indulgent, no? I have fallen into that trap with the best of them; at the end of the day, it’s just not worth it. (check out my solutions after the jump)
Two Parties, Same Time, Same Day
This seems to be the most common in the “what do I do?” department. Also, it’s a tough call when often the parents may want to go to one party and the child to the other or both.
In this situation I would recommend looking at the options, and making sure you talk them thru with the parents involved. Look, let’s be honest, there are friends we are closer with than others and there are friends that our kids play better with than others. Just talk to the parent of the party you cannot make and explain the situation. Good friends should understand, and even help you in coming up with the best solution. Should it happen that 2 really close friends have parties on the same day and it’s logistically possible to make it to both, well, then aim for festivities at one and cake and pizza at the other.
Where To Draw The Invite Line
Ahhh, the dreaded guest list, and how to whittle it down from wedding size to toddler size. Always tricky, and always touchy. This is the hardest one for me, as I always want to include anyone and everyone I know. I think in the toddler years, this is a bit easier. You stick to your closest friends, and then expand into your kid’s group of regular friends. His/hers can include play date friends, playgroup friends, school friends, etc. Do not stress about inviting kids who are way older or younger. They won’t be offended, nor do their parents need to schlep them to yet another party just because you feel bad not including them. Let’s be honest, kids’ birthday parties, when they involve toddlers, and infants, are really NOT FUN. For the kids, of course, but for the parents, c’mon….wouldn’t you rather be doing ANYTHING else than watching a clown, or singing ring around the rosy or clapping to yet another rendition of the wheels on the bus? So don’t go for overkill, go for manageable and kids your kid knows. And trust me, your single friends and friends without kids, are fine seeing pictures, not living it. In fact, they will thank you.
How Much To Spend On A Gift
If you have kids, you obviously know the record time in which it takes to burst the euphoria bubble of a new toy. It’s like .05 seconds. And I think coming in a close second is breaking toys, at .06 seconds. So don’t worry about the price tag, think about fun factor, function and longevity. Depending on the age, to diminish the amount of toys you have, let alone need, suggest a larger gift to a close friend who can organize a group present. Or, let close friends know what you need, since, there will always be people who will get toys no matter what. Maybe it’s socks and underwear, or PJ’s, or sweatpants. Whatever it is, save yourself the trip to the store or ordering online. Toddlers are equally excited by a dinosaur shirt, or pirate pajamas, as they are by anything else.
Being a parent is a life long lesson, so all we can do is learn as we go, and just keep trying. But really at the end of the day, there is no need to stress and no need for drama. It always comes together, and remember, it’s not their wedding day, it’s an overpriced play date with the add-ins of cake, cupcakes and juice. Really, when you think about it, it’s a rather expensive sugar high. Maybe life would be simpler if they all just asked for ponies again.