Ever since moving from the Shenandoah Valley almost two years ago back to the Philadelphia area, I have been an astute observer of the local birthday party sociology. In Virginny, we pretty much did 'em all at home and knew everyone purdy darn well. Here are some working hypotheses I have arrived at, some compared with our own family's backward practice. This list is not well organized, but hey, it's only a blog. I'm trying to write more and be more sloppy.
1. The less well you know the birthday child's parents, the more expensive the present should be. You're pretty safe spending a little more than twenty dollars.
I spent $7.00 on Model Magic for a girl in Jack's class last year whose name I can't recall.*
2. The less well the hosting parents know the families of the invited children, the more likely they are to have the party in a professional party place, such as a gym, etc. My theory is people don't want to reveal much about themselves to strangers. Only part of it is the convenience. Just a hunch.
I invited Jack's whole class (at the horrible fake Montessori school he went to in fall of 2003) to his fourth birthday party because I couldn't decide who to chose. It was at our house. "Only" eight kids came. The parents all stayed and did not eat a single bite of anything. Not even the chocolate cake I baked from scratch (Richard Sax's Classic Home Desserts)and decorated myself with a frosting firetruck! What in all heck is wrong with people?
3. The youngest child in a family with three or more children gets dropped off at a party before any of the other guests, the parent speeds off gleefully, not to be seen again until three minutes after the official end of the party.
4. There are always exceptions to every rule. It's most unusual, nay truly remarkable, for parents to invite fifteen children to a party in their house filled with antiques and breakables, and have the party last four hours instead of the universal two. Yet it happened today. Went surprisingly well. The Spiderman face paint will need another scrubbing before it comes off completely, and Jack's balloon broke, and some cake got smushed in their carpet, but no catastrophes.
5. When you try to be "green" and wrap the present from your child in the Sunday comics, you feel like a total loser when you compare it with the rest of the gaudily wrapped beribboned presents on the table.*
6. For parties at someone's house, girls wear dresses.
Jack wore his baseball shirt and torn jeans today. *
7. The party favor is not supposed to be just one thing, rather a bag full of things.
At the joint party we had for Jack and Will, there was one favor per child.*
8. Moon bounce, moon bounce, moon bounce.
9. When planning a party for your child, there is no polite way to encourage simple inexpensive gifts. You can only limit the number of children.
10. When dropping off or picking up your child, don't park in the driveway, unless you don't mind being parked in for thirty minutes.
*We could use a little work in these areas.