By Judy Reiss
When I was a girl, nothing was more exciting than a birthday party. Invitations were sent and the excitement surrounding the anticipation of receiving that invitation was amazing. Once the invitation was received, there was much discussion over which dress to wear and what token birthday present to take.
And once at the party, with everyone in their best party clothes, we were ushered to a table that was decorated for us to enjoy. And every single place had a fancy cup that had nuts and small candies in it. Then the party food was served. And here is where the real difference was demonstrated. No one, not a single person refused to eat whatever was served. All of us knew that we had to be on our best behavior and that included eating whatever we were served. But the best part was the ice cream and cake! Keep in mind back then no one had either ice cream or cake on a regular basis. And so these treats were also eaten and enjoyed. And once in a while my favorite was served, and that was a Dixie Cup. And not only did it have ice cream in it, the lid had a picture of a movie star on it! I can vividly member how thrilled I was to get a cup with Mona Freeman on the lid.
The other interesting thing about birthday parties back then was after the party was over, there was never a speck of food left. And when I think about it, it wasn’t for any reason except cake and ice cream were treats and no one would leave any at all. And when the party was over, every single person who had been invited, went and said goodbye to the birthday girl or boy’s mother. Oh I forgot, we also played games that were set up by the parents of the birthday girl/boy. Whether you wanted to play or not, you played and hoped you won because the only person who got a prize was the winner! “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”, “Musical Chairs”, “Whose Got the Bean” and of course “Gossip” and “Hide an Seek”.
My own children had birthday parties, of course. However, they weren’t as good behavior oriented as the ones that I went to. They did, however, eat all the cake and dove into the ice cream. I am happy to say that very few came in their “birthday” clothes. At Polly’s tenth birthday party, Malcolm took the 10 little girls out to the Barre-Montpelier Road to go bowling. To this day, over 37 years later, he still says that it was the worst experience of his life! For some reason, he had no idea how to control 10 10-year-old girls when they had bowling balls in their hands.
Having a birthday party today is much more difficult than when I was involved in giving a party for my children and my two oldest grandsons. Now the rule is no cupcakes in the classroom! And before you invited a child to your child’s party, you have to be sure and invited the mother, too. Why? I can’t quite figure that out. Then of course, you have to be sure who can eat what and what will cause an anaphylactic episode which isn’t enjoyed by anyone. So after you check with each and every mother if their child can eat cake or not, you can finally serve the cake and ice cream. Although you thought this would be the hit of the party, it no longer is. For most children it’s just same old, same old. They have cake and ice cream on a regular basis, so unfortunately the thrill of being served such a wonderful treat is gone. And if you have little games for the kids to play, you can no longer have a winner. Nope, every child has to receive a small gift for participating. And if they won’t play, they get a gift for just being there. And what about the helicopter group of mothers? Well, if you want to you can include them in everything because they will encourage their wonder child to behave, but you can also have special treats for the mother, which should include wine, good crackers and a very special dip. You could also suggest to your child that instead of a fun-filled party with his or her friends, just the family can go somewhere that he or she always wanted to go. I know that it sounds expensive but it will be a lot cheaper than the cost of the doctor you will need to see after the child’s birthday party!
I know that I sound a little crazy but let me tell you that I have attended and put on a lot of children’s birthday parties. But if you want to live to enjoy your next birthday party, think of some clever way to celebrate one of your loved ones. You will live through it and it will probably became a yearly event. Happy Birthday!