Editor’s note: This column was originally published in 2005.
Over the last 15 years my wife has organized roughly 40 birthday parties with our four children.
Thirty-nine were huge disasters.
This is no criticism of my better half, mind you. Rather, it’s an inevitable fact of all birthday parties. Parties for boys have the largest potential for Titanic-like outcomes, but girl parties have their own “issues.”
Here is my recipe for birthday flops:
10. Raise your child’s expectations. Tell your child early and often: “This is going to be the best birthday party ever. Better than the party with the hot air balloon ride. Better than the party at the riding stable.”
9. Invite the entire class and subdivision. A large turnout will demonstrate just how popular your child really is. Toss them all in the basement and watch time stand still.
8. Pick unusual venues to outdo everyone else. Skating parties can create fun memories when toddlers fall and chip their teeth. Petting zoos can be interesting, especially during goat-mating season.
7. Set aside several hours for the big event. Encourage parents to go shopping and be inaccessible. Accede to your son’s demand that he can open all the presents first, not last. Dead time will encourage the brats to get creative.
6. Serve candy and sodas with loads of caffeine. It’s a potent one-two combination kids love.
5. Coordinate with the Chiefs schedule. Schedule the party during a Chiefs game so dad can give his undivided attention. Let him drink a couple beers to “loosen him up” for when he needs to fill time with a couple makeshift magic tricks.
4. Invite scary clowns. Nothing can freak out toddlers quicker than a strange man with a bad wig, a red nose and shoes that curl up like those worn by the Wicked Witch of the West. Encourage the really shy ones to “go sit on his lap and get a special treat.”
3. Get siblings involved. Brothers love it when their sister steals all the attention. Have ample water balloons, sling shots and BB guns around when they get bored. Use those special candles that you can’t blow out. Converting the cake into one big spitball will add to the special memories.
2. Leave the dog and the cake in the same room alone.
1. Forget about record keeping. Sort out later who brought which gifts.
Put a fitting end to the day by driving everyone home when it’s over. Depend on the 9-year-old guests to help navigate the cul-de-sacs and dead ends found in most subdivisions.
This will extend the party another couple hours and improve your disposition considerably when you finally get home to pick up the mess.
Freelancer Matt Keenan writes in this space every other week.