Party rules


So my following note to a very helpful grandma of one of my daughter’s friends sums up the insane whirlwind of this season’s birthday parties:

“I just wanted to thank you for all of your help with the kids today. Seriously. You were a godsend. This week I started a new job requiring very long hours, am still nursing a sprained shoulder, and hosted the baby’s 1st party this morning.
By this afternoon’s party, I was exhausted.
Then you helped out with the baby and even retrieved my daughter for me as we headed home. (Did I mention my belt broke at that party and I was nervous my loose pants would fall down as I chased her?)
Anyway, just wanted to thank you a thousand times over for helping out.
It was greatly appreciated.”

In this part of the country birthday parties are a B.F.D.

And kiddie fetes have unwritten rules of engagement:

For kids five and under, the whole class must be invited.

It’s tacky to open gifts at the party.

Provide goodie bags or takeaways for the kiddie guests.

At “no present” parties, guests will always bring presents anyway…just in case you didn’t mean it, or they didn’t read the Evite, or Candyland was on sale, or whatever.

Send a thank you note of some sort (there are raging debates on local listservs about whether an emailed or paper note is most proper. My rule: if you sent an electronic invitation, send the same as a thank you. Likewise, paper invites warrant a paper thank you).

Two weeks ago, we attended three birthday parties back-to-back–all in one day. One party was a double-feature party with specially-ordered princess costumes for the birthday girls, themed activity tents on the lawn (professional face painting, dress up, crafts, sand play, and, of course, cake and food.) The goodie bags included large teddy bears, each in a unique outfit.

Last week, we got turned around on the way to a party for a toddler and wandered by accident into another party at a park replete with two bounce houses, a petting zoo, pony rides, a balloon animal artist, and an art auction. The child was turning one.

Yep, welcome to D.C. Home of neurotic overachievers who put in long hours at work and guiltily try to make up the missed time with tons of extracurricular activities and big blowout birthday parties. And, now that Pinterest is a factor, it’s like giving type-A crack to a bunch of addicts.

And for the record, yes, that includes me.

Just take a look at the  “The good mother hen” section on my Pinterest page (self-plug alert 😉 ) and you’ll see a bevy of party ideas.

The baby’s teddy bear picnic themed 1st birthday party was Pinterest-inspired. I roped my visiting sis and goodnatured husband into helping me decorate teddy bear goodie bags and festooning the house and yard with red and white picnic-themed decorations. The menu included grapes and strawberries decorated to look like caterpillars and lady bugs, sandwiches decorated as butterflies, and homemade cupcakes decorated to look like teddy bears. The kids hunted for fake food in the yard to feed the teddy bears. We painted the kids’ faces, played with bubbles, and invited teddy bears to the fest. Each kid went home with mini teddy bears and gummy bears in their goodie bags.

The baby, who we lovingly call “Papa Bear” and who turned one yesterday, of course was oblivious to all of this.

He was amused when we sang happy birthday, but wailed in protest when I tried to offer him one of those carefully decorated cupcakes.

The huge teddy bear we bought him as a gift went largely ignored.

He was happiest just crawling around with one of his baby buddies and plinking on an old toy piano.

And that’s as it should be.


About domesticpolichick

My life is a crazy jumble of sitcom-level domestic hijinks and fast-paced political reporting in the nation's capital. Breastfeeding while doing a phone interview with a senator...yep, I've done it and no, I won't reveal the name. Toddler calling a member of Congress on the cell..yeah, that really did happen. Pregnant in high heels on Capitol Hill trying to chase down a particularly grumpy senator, yeah...that was nuts. But what can I say? I'm just one domestic polichick trying to figure out the work-life balance.
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