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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Party Politics

Erin is turning two years old next month.

Now she can enter the Terrible Twos. I’m looking forward to comparing the Terrible Twos with the Whiny One-and-a-Halfs, the Tantrumy Twenty-Month-Olds, and the No-No-No-Nineteen-Month-Olds.

Erin’s second birthday will be both more and less outlandish than her first. Her first, the actual day, was spent at Disneyland. The day before she had a small “here, smash a cupcake” party with her baby bff and a small group of baby friends who have been a circle of friends forever. (Not their choice, of course. But until she moves out I’m going to be choosing her friends based on how cool the parents are. Dad has a golf cart to run errands? Sorry, you can’t be friends with Jane. Mom has an Iroc-Z that she stole from an ex-boyfriend in high school when he dumped her at a Weezer concert? Yes, yes you can play with Dark Galadriel.)

Her actual party was a family event held down in SoCal, apart from her baby friends, and mostly attended by people she had to crane her neck to see properly. There were jellyfish decorations everywhere, and a jellyfish cake, and I made some jellyfish trivia game and…I don’t even remember what else. I think there were jellyfish toys to go home with for the kids who were there.

That shirt says "Party Like a Jellyfish"

It was elaborate. But the effort and guest list made sense. Just family and old family friends.

This year we are staying home and we are having a park party. We have booked some picnic tables and we are co-hosting the party with the family of Erin’s closest baby friend, a little girl who is one day older than Erin. And now the logistics get crazy.

Not only because of the “how many from your side?” kind of arrangements (which I don’t really care about), but also the “Who, in our wide realm of toddler acquaintances do we invite?” kind of questions.

Of course all of the baby friends who were at her first not-party. And some family who can make the trip up north. And who else?

There are people with kids who we’ve spent a lot of time with, and whose parties we’ve attended. Last year we didn’t have to wonder if we should invite them, because we were out of town. Now, do we keep it low-key? Do we make it a broader toddler-community event? Our two families overlap with a lot of acquaintances and maybe-friends (like, we’d be friends if the opportunity allowed, but opportunity never does…), so does sharing a maybe-friend between two families elevate that person to friend-friend status and demand an invitation? Further, most of the people who are definitely getting invitations also know a lot of the same people, and might even be closer to them than we are, and now it’s all political.

That will probably sort itself out. I’m leaning toward sending out invitations to everyone whose e-mail address I can track down and who we have spent significant time with, even if it’s been a long, long time since we’ve seen them. I can’t think of anyone I wouldn’t want to have at the party. Is that too liberal?

(Oh, crap. What do we do about gifts? Will this just seem like I’m trying to get more crap for Erin? Trying to get invites to more parties so that we can remain in the “scene”? Hell, this really is political.)

But you know what? Erin hasn’t spent a ton of time with a lot of those kids in a long while. She has spent a ton of time with her friends at “school”. Two months ago I’d have just said “hell no” to school invites, because I don’t really know many of the parents at all well, and it’s not as though Erin would be wondering where her classmates were. But we do kind of know a couple of the parents. Do we just invite them? I might think “Of course” and that there would be no further discussion about it. But some of the parents passed out “hand made” valentines last month.

Hand made. They cut out little hearts and cards and dragged their child’s hand through paint and glitter and whatever else and dropped the cards in the cubbies at school. Come on. That’s not about the kids at all.

Is it?

But if it isn’t about the kids, then it’s about the parents, wanting to build a group or live vicariously or keep up with the Joneses or whatever but the end result of all of the wondering about “Why valentines?” is that not inviting everyone in the class, especially someone who dished out a valentine, is controversy if we invite anyone at all. It’s “not participating in the community”, or the game, or the fantasy or whatever and that means opinions and talk and gossiping and…then Erin doesn’t get into Stanford after high school because one of these parents will turn out to be the Dean of Admissions in a dozen years. Or Erin won’t get a job at Google because one of the parents will have become CEO between now and then. Or she won’t get accepted into nun school because the head nun is the aunt of one of the snubbed kids. Or she won’t be the lead guitarist of Copperhead Death Kabob because the bassist didn’t get to eat cupcakes at the park with her when he was two, and his mom is fronting all of the band’s touring expenses.

I may be letting my imagination get the better of me here.

Further complicating the matter is that the co-host parents, Erin’s little bff’s parents, are thinking about inviting kids from their daycare, because, quite reasonably, those are the kids their daughter knows best. And they know the parents to some extent, or are at least part of a community with those parents (it’s a sort of work-specific daycare) that would be benefited or harmed to an even greater extent depending on whether the kids were invited or not.

What. In the hell. Am I. Going. To do?

Who doesn’t get invited? How did you decide?

Because, frankly, I don’t want to make a hundred cupcakes. With butterflies on them. (It’s a whole butterfly thing this time around. I promise: lasers and dinosaurs next year.)

I need some help.


VDog said...

I'm totally not expecting an invite if that helps you at all. Snort.

Funny post, dood.

But ya, y'all should come back this way at some point to use your free coupon!

Doodaddy said...

And I, on the other hand, *am* totally expecting an invite. I'll check my mail daily. Cat's out of the bag now!

Sammanthia said...

If you're stressing out like this over her 2nd birthday party I cannot WAIT to see what you're going to be like when she gets married and you have to come up with a guest list.:)
Just invite whoever you want and if someone gets snubbed and calls you out on it just blame it on the other couple. "Sorry, dude, they don't like you. My hands were tied. I tried, really."
I'm totally kidding. I have no idea. Just invite the kids that Erin seems to like the most and hope for the best.
Good luck!

Jennifer said...

I don't really have any advice on the invite list (we had the same issues recently with Maggie's birthday party this coming Saturday!) BUT. I do want to see a picture of you making butterfly cupcakes. HA!

Anonymous said...

Evite the whole shmeer, then let the 10% flake rate and private followups in email to the people you *really* want to see sort it all out.

Besides, the party's at the park, right? Perfect drift in, drift out setting.

PS I survived a joint 4-way group birthday party of 5 year olds. And it was awesome. It's totally the way to go when they get older. Who wants their social schedule dictated by a dozen preschool kids each needing their special weekend? That takes up a lot of valuable weekend time. (Is it too late to add JMHO to a very bossy-sounding first time ever comment to your blog?)

Anonymous said...

Invite them all! It's not like they will all be able to make it. And having extra cupcakes is never a BAD thing. :)

the yummy mummy said...

I agree with Sammanthia. This party is about your daughter - what's good for her, what will make her happy, how much fun she'll have.

I think the fewer the kids, the more fun they have when they're 2. So my ridicuous solution: I have multiple "parties" or mini-celebrations. This year, for Lucy's 4th, we had one family party, a party in school with school friends, a party for kids who live in our building at home. And since she didn't want boys at her butterfly garden party, we had cupcakes at a playdate with a couple of boys.

I know that sounds insane, but really each mini-party was easy, cheap and she liked looking forward to a week of birthday "parties".

So, my advice, (since you asked) invite who you want, who Erin wants around. The rest of them you can have them over for a little playdate with cake.

The other thing - most people won't get pissed. People hate these parties. No one will be pissed being left off the guest list.

That's all I got...


PS Oh! and just to be honest, when the girls were 2, we took them and a couple of their friends on carriage rides in Central Park and for ice cream at FAO Schwartz. No party at all. They had a blast. You can always just scrap the plan and do something else.

Aren't you glad you asked?

Mr Lady said...

After one, we invite one kid for each year of age. That's it. It totally works.

for a different kind of girl said...

The week my youngest son got four birthday party invitations in the mail (2 for parties on the same day, yet at different times, so YAH! we can go!) I cursed him for being more popular than I ever was (am), and then wondered where in the hell I was going to come up with money to buy four birthday gifts. I'd not invite the whole class. Brilliant as she is, Erin won't know, and the good thing about this age is the kids won't be standing around lockers or in the lunch room the next week talking about who did what at who's party and feeling bad because they weren't invited.

(seriously...four parties. one at Chuck E. Cheese. In all honesty, I think parents really dislike birthday parties)(wait...maybe that's why I was (am) not so popular)

Angela said...

I'm liking the 'invite em all and let god sort em out' kind of mentality here. Or the one kid per year if you were just doing it alone. With the co-party thing that probably won't fly though.

I suppose making half butterfly cupcakes and the other half easy cupcakes with just some kind of sprinkles instead wouldn't cut it? Cause that's what I'd do to cut down on the possible work.

And I'm kind of in agreement with the above poster that no one will really care if they're not invited either. Everyone knows the drill. Might want to make sure to invite those who invited you though I suppose.

Sheesh. NOT looking forward to the first time we do this kind of party!

witchypoo said...

Hell, she won't even remember it. As long as you get a picture of her with the cake, you're ahead of the game.

Heather said...

What is the other family doing? How many are they inviting? I would pick a number of guests (2-year-olds) for each girl and call it good. And I would pick the kids who Erin seems to get along with, but also whose parents you get along with. She's not going to care that much, but YOU will.

Melanie said...

this is why we do ONLY family b-days.......I dont want to have my kids starting to EXPECT some great big hoopla......yes i get invites and i feel obligated to go to lots of my friends kids parties, but my kids dont need all that stuff, and i certainly dont need the stress. You will find especially as she gets older, that the more kids you invite, the more tears you should expect, cause everyone wants time with the b-day boy and/or girl and there just isnt enough to go around on the big day

Mandy said...

um... put a $50 gift minimum on the invite. that might cull your numbers somewhat.


Swirl Girl said...

suddenly come down with croop...or go back to disney.

boo-hiss kiddie parties!

Nibblet's Mom said...

You need to breathe deeply and stop over thinking it. This is her 2nd birthday, you gotta save some of this panic for her kindergarten, high school, college, med/law school graduation. You're way too hot to get old so fast worrying like this.

Write down the names, give the cutie a pen and let her scratch up the page, send an invite to everyone who's name she marked on.Then grab a beer and call it a day.

Redneck Mommy said...

I've got nothing.

Mainly because when it comes to kids birthday parties I don't do them.

Family only.

Because, I suck.

And because we have a huge family with tonnes of cousins and I try to encourage my children not to make friends with anyone outside of our cult-like clan.

I applaude parents like you who try and properly socialize your children. Let me know how that works out for you.

kittenpie said...

My feelings on this amount to expecting adults to be adults and understand that unless oyu are hosting a big huge event and inviting everyone, you are just going to invite the kids your daughter plays with the most and talks about as her good friends. And not everyone is into the big party. I have a small party with a few friends each year so far, and while it grows a smidge each yar, so far we haven't had any crankiness over not returning invites. I mean, doing it at home, we just can't invite everyone, so when she was 2, we had three kids, the next year we had 4 or 5, last year we had 6, I think, and this year I am open to ten. Manageable.

Anonymous said...

I say you don't invite anyone. That will show them.

Hey... maybe that's why my childhood was so snorezilla.

Scratch that, invite them all and hope for the best. And by best I mean let's hope that some of the mothers (and/or fathers, I'm not picky) don't get along... and get in a brawl in the park. Then you can sell the video, Mommies Gone Wild and make millions.

Hey, if Joe (whatever that douchebag's name is - Francis?) can make money off drunk college girls... you can certainly make money off of pissed off mommies (and.or daddies... we are NOT picky).

Anonymous said...

Realistically... I have this problem to this day with people. I have this issue with not wanting people to feel left out. I also don't want people who don't get along. Or who don't know each other that well so they'll be forced to be left out.

I do the easy thing. I don't do parties. Heh.

Jenni said...

We are having a similar issue w/Oscar birthday this year. I want to do a kid party at a park, BUT then I'd be leaving out a lot of our friends without kids and I don't want them to feel excluded just because they have not yet had/chosen not to have kids, because that's not fair, right?

Someday PhD said...

It is sad that I could read this post and it sounded just like planning a grad school party.

RobMonroe said...

Crap - My daughter is turning two in June and I have not thought about this at all. Last year we had two of her friends (whose parents have been friends for 10+ years) and the rest was family. I've thought through theme, but not guest list yet. Crap.

My_Dog_Is_Better said...

Wow I have so much to say.

1. You should put *no toys please* on the invites because do you really have room for a hundred new toys? One and two year olds should just get clothes for their birthdays.

2. Those jellyfish were soooo octopi, I thought we established that already.

3. The parents from daycare who don't get invited really aren't going to know they weren't invited, it's not like their 1 or 2-year-old kid is going to come home and say "Mommy Sally went to Erin's birthday party and I didn't get to be invited! waaaaa!"

4. It's a park yo, the more the merrier. This is really about cupcakes. It's not going to take you muhh more time to make 120 cupcakes instead of 100 so why not just invite the 10 kids in Erin's daycare class?

5.. Dude. Erin is not even related to that kid and STILL she has to share her birthday party?! I would think you of all people...

Kati said...

We solved this problem by hosting a food drive in conjunction with our kids' birthdays. We say,"In lieu of gifts, please bring nonperishable items to benefit children fed by Local Food Bank.". Then we'll list some suggestions, and that we're not kidding about this.

This means we get to invite everyone we want, our kids don't e d up drowning in toys, and we get to teach our children about being generous. Thank-you notes include a pic of the birthday child with the total donation, so guests get warm and fuzzies too.

The gifts that inevitably come (some folks cannot come without a token present) are spirited away and opened later.

Anyways, many happy returns to the birthday girl, and good luck with your political negotiations.

Amy @ Milk Breath and Margaritas said...

I love your criteria for choosing her friends. It's awesome.

Of course, once she hits about 13, you'll be looking for those Amish parents to sidle up to. (Trust me on that one.)

Natasha said...

Wow. That is a beautiful girlie. But what's up with that cake?? Is it a sea cake? Tell me it's a sea-themed cake.

ms. changes pants while driving said...

i was going to comment about something, then you started talking about presents, and i was going to comment on that, then you said dinosaurs and lasers, and that was the end of it for me.

this is me not commenting.

OH! now I'M stressed out about my kids first birthday. and i don't even have kids. i'm not even knocked up. so... thanks for that. you're planning my kids' first birthday party.

bejewell said...

Mine turns 2 next month, too. We're going simple. Mickey Mouse theme, at hour house, exact same guest list as last year. Why mess with perfection?

Karen L said...

delurking to say: "Backpacking
Dad, have you lost your head?"

She's almost two. She won't even know if there is no party at all. Sure, she'll enjoy being the centre of attention but do you really think she's lacking in opportunities to feel special?

As to the politics... do you keep track of the other kids' birthdays and whether you were invited? I didn't think so.

I'm with witchypoo. As long as you have a picture in the photo album so that she can see it when she's thirteen and maybe she cares, you'll be fine.

suzanne said...

Dinosaurs & lasers. I am SO stealing that for the little man's 2nd or 3rd or 4th birthday. (1st one this coming June is already decided with Monkeys - Mommy's choice. After all, it'll probably be my last choice for birthday party themes).

I'm right with ya on the invite stress. Though thankfully our guy hasn't started daycare yet, so we don't have that to contend with this year. I think I'll cap the number of kids at how many *I* can handle without going (completely) insane. And oh yeah...only the kids with cool parents are invited.

And don't worry about the band thing. She'll start her own band if the mother of so-and-so-who-wasn't-invited doesn't let her join her kids' band.