It was a busy weekend at our house. My oldest son is turning six in a couple weeks so we had a combination birthday and Halloween party Saturday night. At our house. Which is really mostly my fault, since I have this issue where I find it morally unconscionable to spend a small fortune for a kid’s birthday party. The theory is, if we have it at our house, we can do it on the cheap and still have lots of fun. We have a big basement so there’s plenty of room for games, crafts, food and the like. I caved last year for his 5th party and we held it at one of those local gymnasium places that runs them around and lets you use their room to serve the pizzas you bought. (Like the park, except you give them lots of money.) It’s expensive, but turnkey and not much planning involved.
This past spring, for Boy #2’s fourth birthday, the wife and I compromised and I agreed to plan and run the party if we could have it at home. My wife was 8 ½ months pregnant and I have at least learned enough over these 8 years to know that there are times to pick your battles. My mission was to demonstrate that a fantastic 4-year-old birthday party could be accomplished for $100. I may have gone a little over but it was pretty close. It was clearly a bit awkward, however, for her and all the mothers when it was explained that I was running things. As if I was going to leave shards of broken glass lying around or have them jump through hoops of fire. I’m happy to report it was a great success (with very few shards of glass I might add).
I’m not sure if I won or lost with this most recent party. I won the battle of having it at home, but may have lost the war as I think we (she) probably went more over budget than if we’d had it elsewhere. Which is not to say that it was a bad party, it was very cool. My wife has a penchant for making things elaborate and festive. More than once over the years she’s been told that she should be a party planner. Which I think would be a great idea (because she’d be very good at it), except that then she’d be off planning other people’s parties and I’d be here with my three favorite kiddos all the time. But maybe we’d make enough money to pay for our own parties…it’s a vicious cycle.
At this week’s party, we (she) pulled out all the stops. Decorations abounded with everything from skeletons and spiderwebbing hanging from the walls to creepy spiders dropping from the ceiling. Relay races were run with pumpkin balloons and Dixie cups of slime were pulled from witches’ cauldrons. We even mummified a few kids by wrapping them up in toilet paper. It’s pretty entertaining watching 10 kindergarteners desperately jumping on white “ghost” balloons, trying with all their might to get their little bodies to pop them. Adding to the effect was the monsoon-like rain storm that was thundering outside. Thankfully, the kids didn’t get too freaked out – I just turned up the music a bit louder and blasted Ghostbusters while they popped the balloons.
We capped off the night by serving birthday cupcakes, ensuring that everyone was completely sugared up just in case the candy corn and other goodies hadn’t already done the job. I’m not sure how we made it through without the house falling down. (I love my basement.) We managed to get them all sitting down while Matthew opened his presents – a generous collection of Star Wars action figures, Lego’s, Transformers and more Bakugans (all parents of girls may now collectively scratch their heads) than we’ll ever know what to do with. By all accounts, he had a great time, and he certainly looks forward to it, so I suppose that it is worth it. But as I sat down at the end of the night, staring at the aftermath, it occurred to me that we now have to think about doing this three times a year once the little guy gets bigger. I suppose that there are some battles that we’re just not meant to win.