I am not exactly sure who plans state dinners at the White House or who determines the guest list, but I am positive it can’t be as challenging as figuring out who to invite to your kid’s birthday party.
I know what you are thinking. Hey, lady. It can’t be that bad. You invite their friends. I know, I know. It seems like it would be that easy, but trust me, it’s not.
Well, I take that back. It does start off easy. For their first birthday, it’s a cinch. They have no friends. I mean who wants to hang out with someone who can barely walk, talk and still soils themselves. And who is without question going to smash a cake in their face on purpose, not really because they think it’s funny but just because they have no idea what else to do with it. Me not know what fork is yet.
Anyway, so to that party you invite your friends and serve respectable import bottled beer and/or classy white wine, as not to look like you are trying to get everyone super loaded at your 1-year-old’s birthday party.
There may be a couple of other babies or young children around of friends who bred before you, and you may make jokes that your baby and the other baby will get married or be best friends, but we all know they don’t really give a damn about each other. No, this party is more for you and your friends.
So you watch the baby smash the cake and say things to your single friends like, “Oh yeah, now that he’s 1, we should really be able start going out again. I’m not even sure if we’re going to have another one” and to your friends with multiple kids, “Yeah, I think we are going to start trying again pretty soon. Don’t want them to be too far apart.” And you aren’t exactly lying. Both of these statements are true – just on different days of the week or maybe even different times of the day.
And when you make it around to chat with your childless-but-married friends, you say things like, “So have y’all started thinking about coming over to the dark side yet?” you laugh evilly, as you point to the kid covered in blue icing (rookie mistake — always get the white icing!). Images of storks will suddenly appear in the wife’s eyes, as caution signs and flames and skull-and-crossbones pop up in the husband’s. Muhahahahaha!
But it’s a nice time. And after you finally get the baby who is all cracked-out on food coloring and sugar to bed, you and your husband finish off the leftover cake and booze (if there is any) and congratulate each other on keeping a human alive for 365 days!
The second birthday party is about the same, maybe you’ve added a neighborhood or daycare buddy to the mix, but it’s mostly still your friends and family. And it’s still at your house and requires nothing to be rented.
Preschool is when it gets complicated. Because they actually do start having their own little buddies in their classes, who have already had their own cool parties at cool places. And so then of course, your kid wants their own cool party there. So you have to start looking into the bouncy places or the skating rinks or the laser tag and/or bowling alleys, or Heaven forbid the armpit of pediatric hell known as Mr. Charles E. Cheese’s.
And most of these places include a set number of kids in their prices. After that number, you start having to pay for each extra kid a la carte, and it adds up quickly.
It’s already expensive for a 3-to-5-year-old’s birthday party. And with all the add-ons and the extra pizza you have to order, by the time you are signing the bill, you’ve spent a good portion of a mortgage payment. Yes, on a child’s birthday party. And you feel dirty. And not just because you had to rescue some screaming child out of a foam-filled pit of pertussis.
You say things to yourself like, “You know my mom used to just buy a cake from Delchamps and throw us out in the backyard with the water hose and it was glorious. And the water hose didn’t even have a nozzle!” As you sign that check, you say never again. But you know that’s a lie.
But this is also why the invitation list gets complicated. So if you invite all of the school friends, you’ve reached your set max limit there. But you still have a couple of your friends who have kids the exact same age and who they do play with, so you have to invite them, of course. But then if you invite your one girlfriend with same age children, you feel like you have to invite your other girlfriends even if they have 10- and 12-year-olds or newborns, and you are hosting a 3-year-old’s party.
Hey honey, could you please let Junior know he’s too old to get in there and jump with the toddlers.
Things start getting a little weird. The birthday party invitation matrix is complicated.
But you have to invite them because you invited these same people to the 1- and 3-year-old birthday festivities (they were the married childless couple and the couple with a 7-year-old then) and even though you know 10- and 12-year-old boys are not going to want to come to your 3-year-old girl’s “Frozen” party, you have to invite them so you won’t hurt their mother’s feelings.
Oh, so you all are going to little Suzy’s party. I guess we didn’t make the cut this year. And I always invited her to all of my kids’ parties!
And then, there are your single, childless friends. You feel bad even asking them to come to a party at Uncle Dirty’s Diseased Ball Pit and Party Palace because you don’t even want to go there yourself. And there’s no booze there like at the parties at your house, so they will certainly be in a kind of hell they have never experienced and can’t even numb the pain with alcohol.
But since you have already had to invite all of your friends with kids ranging from newborns to 15-year-olds, they would be the only friends you weren’t inviting, and they would probably thank you for that. But you are a narcissist and you feel like it may just devastate them, so you send them the invite too.
By the end of the party, you are shoved into a room with no windows, sitting around a picnic table with screaming babies, breastfeeding mothers, skinny single childless chicks and grandparents with canes, eating lousy pizza and drinking Capri Suns and wondering if anyone is enjoying this at all.
Then you look at the guest of honor and the look of absolute bliss on his or her face, and you know the answer to that question is a resounding yes. And suddenly, the five jillion dollars you are about to fork out and the case of conjunctivitis you have already contracted but aren’t aware of yet, doesn’t seem so bad.
Broke and diseased, you still promise yourself that next year their little butt will be in the backyard with one friend, a grocery store cake and if they’re lucky a rousing game of pin the tail on the donkey.