One of the few upsides of having 1.5 more children than average is the gift of laughter. Specifically, laughter at all of the stupid things you used to do when you only had one kid.
Remember when we said we would never parent with television?
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Hahah. Heh.
Oh those were the days.
One of the most bizarre rituals I used to partake in was the Giant Elementary School Birthday Party.
Number 1: I Don’t Need More Friends
When your are in the throes of raising your oldest child, there are a lot of things that seem like a good idea at the time. One of them is the massively large and/or overly elaborate birthday party that you throw for them in Kindergarten or first grade. Like pretty much everything else we do for our first child this is A) largely a mistake and 2) doesn’t really benefit anyone except us. Here’s how it works.
You, the parent, drop anywhere from $300-$500 on a pre-packaged Birthday Experience Center involving inflatables, animatronic critters, and/or an 18-Wheeler loaded with video games. In return, you get a chance to impress the other parents in your kid’s class and hopefully make some friends for the next 4-5 years until they all split up for middle school, because if there’s one lesson we’ve all learned as adults it’s that if you need temporary friends the fastest way to get them is to flash the cash.
You also get to find out who “Ian” is and why he’s always on Red.
You justify this to yourself by adding up the cost of cake, ice cream, pizza, a carton of Marlboros, a bottle of Jack Daniels, a Johnny Cash CD and attorney’s fees for representing you when you lose custody of your children and decide it makes perfect sense to outsource the entire experience to a Birthday Experience Center.
The moment of truly poetic irony comes when you tell yourself that you don’t really have the time to do all of this anyway, even though this is your first child and YOU WILL NEVER HAVE MORE FREE TIME than this.
Number 2: The Trauma
I attended a Chuck-e-Cheese pizza party once in 1984. I must have done well enough to end up on someone’s “Top 10 Friends” list, or at least the “Top 15 Just In Case Someone On The Top 10 RSVPs No”.
I remember Loudness, Skee-ball, Pizza, and Dragon’s Lair. And tickets. Lots and lots of tickets.
Returning to the Lair of the Rat in 2014 was a completely different experience.
I freely admit that as an adult my tastes have gotten substantially more lame.
I no longer “Rock Out” with or without anything else that might rhyme with “rock” hanging out with me.
I listen to classical music mostly because it’s a reasonable replacement for Marlboro’s and Jack Daniels and far more acceptable to be caught consuming in a minivan full of children.
My idea of a fun Friday night is staring at a camp fire, listening to the crickets chirp, and enjoying some Chateau Vin du Box, vintage le Tuesday Last Week.
I write love letters to my rice cooker because of the superior way in which it makes oatmeal.
Overall, very lame indeed.
The occasion this time was Faceman‘s second best friend’s birthday party.
This year all of my son’s classmates must come from extremely wealthy homes because we’ve turned down invitations to:
- The 1956 Yankees-Dodgers World Series
- A backyard BBQ with U2
- The Dali Lama’s reading of The Vagina Monologues
It’s only October.
Fortunately, Faceman is actually child #3 and I don’t need or want any more friends. Also if we ask our son “Who is Declan?” and the response is “Declan who?” we’re not going because it involves messing with one of our carpools for swimming and that dog don’t hunt.
As someone who is no longer 48″ tall, Chuck E. Cheese has lost some of the magic for me. My son seemed to enjoy running around and putting coins in machines to get a varying number of tickets out in a bizarre parody of strip club economics.
The pizza was a member of the pizza species in the same way that Taco Bell is Mexican food.
There was an Art History major in a giant rat costume who challenged the Birthday Boy to an air guitar contest. And lost. Hopefully on purpose because the dude was only 7 and can’t reliably spell “guitar” without turning one of the letters backwards in an adorable fashion.
There were animatronic characters lip-syncing to muppet characters displayed on flat screen TVs covering pop music from 10 years ago.
It was loud, cringeworthy, and tacky beyond description.
The kids loved it. Especially the Giant Talking Rat part.
I looked for a corner and curled up into a fetal position and silently sang We Built This City to myself over and over.
Number 3: The Mingling
The “best” part about these affairs is that they are conventionally not “drop off” parties, so the adults are contractually obligated to stay and mingle. This works really well because even in our fairly affluent and progressive community it’s still 99% of the time the moms who do these things so they get together and talk about particle physics or whatever it is women talk about when their men are not in earshot.
Mrs. Nostrikethat, however, is wise to these games, and so I am sent to make nicey-nice and be the legally responsible adult. Also, it’s easier than dealing with the other 3 kids.
As a dad, I can often get a lot more accomplished than a mom in a room full of other moms. Normally, I am completely ignored (just like high school), which mean I can just sit there, read my Kindle and collect gossip.
I am also really good at the “sit near a group and slowly move into it” move, where I just sit near a group of women who are talking and make eye contact with the speakers an an assertive but hopefully not sexually-harassing way and eventually incorporate myself into the conversation. This is a useful technique for when I have an opinion on something I hear being discussed, like the Halloween Party debacle at the school.
Mostly though the other moms don’t know what to do with me, so I’m left to fend for myself.
Just like high school.
It’s not that those of us with N > 2.5 kids are directly judging those of you with less, it’s more like we are marathoners listening to people who are training for their first 5K: everyone’s race is hard, we’ve just done a little more a little longer. Feel free to keep inviting us to your birthday parties, and we will dutifully consider at least a third of them before pressing the Delete key because this Franzia isn’t going to drink itself and you don’t need to impress me, nor I you.
Just the opposite of high school.