Benevolence. Compassion for the suffering. A peace-loving, generous disposition. All important tenets of the Jewish faith. But you know what? All this can go out the window and straight into a bottle of lukewarm white wine when staring down a child’s birthday party.
Benevolence? Ha! You try being benevolent when wrangling 20 sugar-spiked toddlers who are pawing at your furniture with frosting-caked hands. Compassion for the suffering? The suffering party is you, comatosely watching a 3-year-old painstakingly open 40 presents with identical wrapping paper. A peace-loving disposition? Maybe, after inhaling five margaritas and a shingle of congealing pizza.
Surely you’ve been to one of the following fetes?
The stranger in a strange land
Why on earth was your child invited to this soiree? And why did you say yes? Your child has not interacted with the party child since a six-week playgroup in 2008. You know absolutely no one, you don’t know what to buy for the party child since you haven’t seen him or her in nearly 10 years, and you’re wondering why you couldn’t spend the afternoon doing something productive, like inhaling cleaning products at Target.
The hostage situation
Once your child is old enough to use the bathroom solo, this should be your chance to offload. Please note, enthusiastic hosts: Drop-off parties should be in full effect for kids 5 and over. This is a shot at two to three blissful hours of peace. However, the scenario is all too rare. Ah, the misery when you read the invitation more closely. Oh dear! This is not a drop-off party. No, this is a party where you get to mill around in freshly mowed grass for three hours making small talk and eating saliva-soaked cake on a limp paper plate.
The booze-free bash
The tenuous connection
You were friends with your old neighbors years ago, and you still think of them fondly. Your children are the same age. And, like a yearly reminder from your doctor to get a colonoscopy, his or her birthday invitation arrives right on cue. Your child and this child have nothing in common. You like their parents and hope to sustain a connection, but this is becoming more and more difficult as your child prefers Legos and video games and their child favors blunt weaponry. You will continue to show up at said child’s party out of sheer guilt until he or she turns roughly 16 or ends up in jail, whichever comes first.
The party that puts you to shame
The party child’s parent has been planning this fiesta since approximately 1994. The elaborate cake is homemade and has been sourced from no fewer than 30 Pinterest boards. There are several forms of entertainment, including a prized children’s entertainer, a pony and a highly paid clown. There is a suggested Instagram hashtag on the invitation, professionally photographed highlights from the child’s first years of life play on a big screen in the living room, and the decorations are from Pottery Barn. You will drive home in a state of extreme self-loathing, wondering why you haven’t even bothered to shave your legs in five months.
The unusually intimate soiree
You expected a party, but in fact it’s just you, your child and the party child’s parents and grandparents. You grope for small-talk options as your friend’s mother-in-law discusses her polyps and new condo in Florida. You try to sound fascinated as your friend’s long-lost sister-in-law discusses her ongoing pet-adoption problems. You excuse yourself regularly to stand alone in the garage, guzzling old beer from a cooler.
The party with an invite that says “No gifts, please!” and yet everyone except you shows up with a gift
You are then plunged directly into a web of slippery white lies. “The gift didn’t arrive on time! Amazon Prime is so unreliable!” “I left it on the kitchen table! We’ll bring it by next week!” Either that or you sneak out halfway through to buy something at CVS.
The party where everyone is sick
This is nobody’s fault, it’s just that every single person has liquids dripping from his or her orifices, yours included. Perhaps the party is at a neutral location (a bounce house or gym, maybe?), where saliva and worse drip off the play structures like rain. You know you’re going to leave with about 23 strains of flu. You refuse to partake in the communal cake. You cling to your own personal paper cup like a life vest. Just the same, you can feel a sore throat set in before you even make your way to the parking lot.
Any other stereotypical party disasters? Feel free to share your woes with me. I’ll read them with pleasure while soaking in Purell.