This past weekend we threw a birthday party for our six-year-old
Zoologist and our almost four-year-old Ballerina. It was a long day at the end of a long week. As was fitting for our week the day’s festivities began when we were all awoken by the banging of hammers as roofers began replacing the roof on our next-door neighbor’s house at 6:30 a.m.. It was all downhill from there.
Birthday parties have changed a lot since I was a kid. Now almost all birthday parties have themes. Usually these themes revolve around something the child likes. Our kids have had themes like dinosaurs as well as their favorite cartoon characters like the Octonauts, Olivia the Pig, and Lightning McQueen. When I was a kid birthday parties all had the same theme: you give me a present, I’ll give you cake, and we all go home happy. It was an exchange that everyone understood, and was mutually beneficial. If your mom was brave enough, or if you got a cake from somewhere that did decorating, you might have a superman cake or something, but that was it. Now, thanks to social media, mom’s get to spend hours accumulating ideas for how a particular birthday party theme would work. I suggested some themes, but I just got an eyeroll from my wife. I thought I had some good ideas, but apparently “just bring cash,” and “don’t overstay your welcome,” aren’t considered good party themes.
Personally I believe that there is a vast conspiracy at the root of the birthday party theme idea. I think that bakers, party store owners, and probably Amazon.com are all in this thing together. My sister-in-law owns her own bakery, but when I asked her about this idea she denied it. Which is exactly what she would do if I was onto something. While everyone is hung up on Hillary Clinton’s emails and what President Trump’s relationship is with Russia, this is the real conspiracy we ought to be investigating.
Another thing that has changed in the decades since I was a kid is that now, along with giving the people who come to your party cake, you also give them a party favor. Party favors weren’t a thing when I was a kid. We all thought that you got cake, wasn’t that enough? Birthday party attenders now get, at a minimum, the requisite cake AND a party favor. Sometimes it is food, sometimes it is a small toy or other trinket. Older generations often complain that kids these days live in a world where everyone gets a trophy, but party favors are a much greater sign that we’ve gone soft as a society. If there is a conspiracy I hope my sister-in-law isn’t involved, she makes a mean cake and doesn’t charge for family.
The cake and party favors are not all that birthday party attenders can expect, of course. Most of the time the birthday party hosts provide at least snacks, if not a meal. If you are new to having kids and the birthday party circuit let me just tell you, get comfortable with sandwiches and pizza. I can promise you at least 90% of the parties you attend will have one of those two as their main food item. Of course, another thing that is different than when I was a kid is that now it is not uncommon to bring your own food. If you are not digging the sandwich and pizza possibilities you might have to feign a food allergy, but in 2017 no one blinks an eye at someone showing up to a meal with their own meal.* Little did my parents know they were raising a trend setter. When I was a kid we would go to church on Sunday night and then a lot of the families from the church would go out to eat somewhere as a big group. All was well and good when the supper destination was Pinocchio’s Pizza, but then somebody got the bright idea to change it to Chinese Kitchen. At forty I eat Chinese food, but at 10 I wanted no part of it. So, every Sunday night we would swing through some drive thru on our way to Chinese Kitchen and I would eat my cheeseburger while everyone else ate their Chicken Chow Mein. Back then people gave me dirty looks. You would have thought my burger was an affront to the long and storied history of the nation of China. Back then I was ridiculous, today I would be trendy.
The Demolitions Expert turns two in August. If I start now maybe I can get my wife to agree to my “lasts fifteen minutes or less” party theme idea.
*Mrs. Sharp is concerned that my comments here will offend someone with an actual food allergy who brings their own food out of necessity. The Ballerina’s preschool is actually “nut-free,” well except for the kids. My suggestion that you fake a food allergy to avoid pizza and sandwiches is in no way meant to minimize those with actual allergies. But you have to admit it is a good idea.