Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday Mr. Ohh!, Happy Birthday to mmmeeeee, and many more. You are welcome to send all the expensive presents you want, but in truth it is not my birthday. It’s the day I celebrate my birthday. Perhaps an explanation is in order. You see in my family there are four siblings. As luck, or very cold winters, would have it we were all born in an eight-week span. Not in the same year of course. Mom was good at procreating, but not that good. Anyway, with our birthdays being so close, my parents decided to hold one birthday party for all four of us. It was truly an affair to be seen. With only one party, there was always lots of family and presents. Also, with the lower costs, there was usually some form of entertainment. It was certainly a good time for all, except it never really worked for me.
You see my true natal day is closer to the middle of October while my sister’s is around the end of August. Since it’s always a better time to throw a picnic in the summer. The event was much closer to my sister’s actual day than mine. When my day came around two months later, well let’s just say things were a lot more sparse. I’m not really angry, but a second cake or clown would have been nice once in a while. In point of fact I would have welcomed a cupcake and a picture of Bozo, with open arms.
Either way, now, I am a grown adult, with kids of my own. As it happens two of my children are less than one month apart. Hooray for me. I was going to maintain the family tradition and have one party for them as well. I was shocked when they informed me that it’s a new day. A child’s birthday has become sacred, as well as another way parents can compete with one another.
What I never knew was, in this day and age children’s parties had to have a theme. One of my son’s friends booked the rec center pool for his swim party. A few years back, my ten-year-old daughter went to a fake fingernail party. I have a friend who is a professional clown, and he says, I ain’t seen nothing yet. He performs at some of the strangest parties imaginable. There are pirates, ninja turtles, and super heroes, of all sorts, that show up at these shindigs, and a lot of the time the kids aren’t even three yet. What used to be a cake, a song, and a few gifts, has become a full-blown extravaganza, complete with matching napkins, and liability insurance.
At first, I considered the parents who were willing to fork out the cash for these follies, were a bit on the crazy side. I was willing to provide cake, and pizza, for a few of my child’s friends. But that’s about it. Once, my friend the clown stopped by, and only charged me two beers and a slice of pepperoni, but that’s about the extent of what I’m willing to pay for. I was so wrong. I could have run through Times Square naked, holding a sign explaining how the Earth is flat, and screaming the government wants to help the little people, and not been more off the mark. Children’s parties are not just a required rite of passage, nine out of ten psychologists agree that if your child did not celebrate at least one birthday in this manner, your child will likely wet the bed when he or she is twenty-six.
Consequently, a whole industry has grown up to fulfill every child’s birthday party desires. For the right price Mickey Mouse will show up at your child’s party with a cake, or the guests can shoot each other with lasers if the kid is more high-tech. I even saw a place where the kids can learn real bullfighting. Nothing brings smiles to a young face, more than a couple of broken bones or a bloody gash. But it’s okay, everybody signed a waiver before they came in, so it’s not your responsibility.
And the pressure to outdo your kid’s friends is enormous. In my son’s group of friends, one girl had her party at the zoo. Not to be outdone, a young lad had a bowling party, next up was laser tag followed by a simulated trip to the moon. Then my neighbor paid for a safari to Africa, and all the children were disappointed. The animal thing had already been done.
Luckily, my turn came early in this cycle. I was able to slip by, with a trip to one of those bouncing places. The kids come in, jump and run through various large inflatables, until exhaustion. This is followed by pizza, more bouncing, then projectile vomiting. What could be more fun?
I have to admit it was mostly a success. Everybody seemed to have a good time. The only problem I had was no one informed me of the hidden costs. They quoted me a flat price for the hour of bouncing, which was reasonable. What they didn’t tell me was that a bottle of water was three dollars. After ten minutes of bouncing everyone was dehydrated. Twelve kids equaled out to thirty-six bucks for water. I was the host so I smiled through it. After twenty-five minutes, the little urchins got bored, and found their way to the arcade side. I’ll give you one guess you had to fork out the cash for all the tokens.
At the edge of the bouncing floor, there was a crane machine with large play-balls in it. Someone thought it would be fun if they had one to play with while bouncing. Two bucks activated the crane, and a little skill maneuvered a ball to the drop point. I was against it, but I was confronted with a dozen little faces all whining “PLEASE!!” I gave in. It took three tries to get a purple ball. Not bad I thought. I tossed the ball at the kids and imagined I was done. Nope. They wanted a red one. Four more tries and I had it. You can guess what happened next. Everyone wanted one. My son agreed to get them if I paid. I said okay and left. Next thing I knew Everyone in the place had a ball. He didn’t stop at his friends, he got one for anyone who asked.
I just sadly found a seat and sat there trying desperately to massage my wallet back to health. At least now, it was time for Pizza and cake. That was already paid for, so I figured if I rushed out of there, and I might make be done dolling out money. Then I was informed, it was customary to tip the girl serving the food twenty-percent.
In the end everyone had a good time so all’s well that ends well. And Kraft Mac-n-Cheese every night for a month isn’t so bad. Is it?