The Challenge of Birthday Parties

by Kirk Daulerio


© zzzdim – Fotolia.com All rights reserved.

I wonder how many of you experience the same angst that I do over planning birthday parties for your toddlers? I don’t know about you, but in our daycare social circle I definitely feel the pressure to throw a bash that will rival Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in Times Square.

It seems that in an effort to keep up with the Jones’, parents these days feel compelled to host more and more elaborate parties for their kids. For example, my daughter recently received an invitation to a friend’s birthday party to be held at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Seems the little tyke (who would be turning THREE, FYI) was gaga over dinosaurs, and this was to be a Cretaceous Era theme party, replete with a guided tour of dinosaur exhibits, a simulated fossil dig, and a reptilian petting zoo, among other activities. Upon reading the details of this invitation, several thoughts went through my mind:

  • Wow, how inadequate am I as a parent? My kids are lucky to get party hats and those cheap kazoo-like noisemakers on their birthdays.
  • These kids are three years old! Will they really be able to follow the tour guide’s presentation on the subtle differences among the Mesozoic, Triassic, and Cretaceous periods? And won’t they be freaked out by the gigantic T-Rex in the lobby of the museum??
  • Wait a second…there’s a chance we’ll see a pterodactyl, and maybe even hold an iguana…I’M IN!!Needless to say, I had a blast…I mean the kids had a great time at the party. They scurried around the museum like frenzied raptors, they donned archaeologists’ hats on their fossil dig and were given full reign to prod and jab at things with heavy metal instruments, they tormented a few lizards, and they even got to devour a T-Rex cake. On top of it all, each and every kid received a full-on dino-gift bag, which included things like dinosaur cards, stickers, action figures, pencils, fossils, bouncy balls, and a kazoo (and not the cheap paper kind)! My daughter loved every minute of it, and she spent so much energy that on the ride home she fell asleep, and I got to listen to music other than “The Wheels on the Bus.”Then, in the car on the ride home, I had a paralyzing thought: What in the name of Sir Richard Owen (he coined the term “dinosaur,” duh) are my wife and I going to do for my daughter’s next birthday, which was coming up in, oh, less than a month, still in time for her, and for everyone on the daycare social circuit, to draw comparisons between our party and the bonanza at the Institute? That’s when the stress set in, my friends.

    In the end, we succumbed to the fact that we would never match Dinomania, so we settled for a small gathering with a few select guests, namely her grandparents, her baby sister, one friend, and the dog. We grilled hot dogs and burgers, we played a few games and sang songs, we passed out paper hats and lousy noisemakers, and we had a great time together.

    Years from now, my daughter probably won’t remember the particulars of her third birthday, but the perma-smile on her face that day spoke volumes to me, and I realized then that I didn’t have to do something like host a Cinderella-themed ball and dress up as the Grand Duke for the day in order to celebrate my daughter’s birthday (I get all dizzy wearing a monocle, anyway).