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If you look to the right of these words, in my sidebar, you’ll see the new Juice Box Jungle widget. Juice Box Jungle is helping to support my blogging habit, and I love them for it. Besides being able to watch the frank and fantastic JBJ videos about parenting, you can now send an ecard to a friend right from my blog, from that widget (because why would you ever want to leave?). Check it out. Send somebody a card. Send me a card!
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Paper Culture has asked me – actually they’re sponsoring me – to talk about the most memorable kid event I’ve ever been to. This will be easy. I often think of my life in terms of before kids and after kids. I don’t really do that with anything else. Having my first child was the biggest, most spectacular change that my life had ever gone through. And the most crazy, over-the-top kid’s party I’ve ever been to happened before I was a mom.
When the invitation came in the mail, it could have been for a wedding (this was about ten years ago, when party invitations were still routinely sent through snail mail). The couple had two kids, and this party was for the younger girl, who was turning one. I was excited. I didn’t have kids, but wanted to, and couldn’t wait until I was having birthday parties of my own.
The party was in suburban NJ, and was outside. The fact that it was raining didn’t change that, it just meant that we were all sitting under a giant canopy that must have cost a fortune. The pony was not under the canopy, but the kids waiting in line for a ride didn’t seem to notice. The petting zoo, clown, and face painter were all under the canopy. There was more catered food than at any party I had ever been to. There were dozens of children running around. And the birthday girl, in a puffy dress, was sitting in the middle of it all, oblivious.
I was simultaneously amazed and appalled. I couldn’t hide it. I asked the mom if all of her kids’ parties were like this, and she said an apologetic yes. She told me that twice a year, she went all out. She loved her kids, she loved parties, and she had two excuses a year to throw a huge bash.
I left the party not knowing what to think. Everybody had had a great time, that was obvious. The party had to have cost thousands, but it looked like they could afford it. My only problem with the whole thing: would I be expected to go crazy for my own kids’ parties?
Back then, I was not the mostly confident, opinionated, outspoken person I am now. In fact, I spent the first couple years of momhood worrying whether or not I was doing everything wrong. If faced with that same party today, I would have just had a good time, made some snarky comments on Twitter, and then forgotten about it. But back then, it really had me worried, that maybe parties had changed drastically since I had been a kid. But of course they haven’t. I’m sure that there were lavish, over-the-top parties when I was a kid, I just wasn’t invited to any. :-)
Our parties have been all over the map. We’ve had huge ones with big platter of lox and elaborate cakes, we’ve had tiny ones with just a few kids, we’ve had them in restaurants and kids’ museums and parks and bowling alleys. We even had one this year that had to be canceled since all of Brooklyn was out of town for August. The expensive ones weren’t any more memorable than the cheap ones, and the kids didn’t feel more loved when more people were there. And now that the kids are getting older, I’m going to have to listen to them more and not just invite the kids of my friends. And someday, when our house and backyard are done and we have a little extra cash, we’d like to throw a huge, over-the-top bash. But it will be for us, not the kids. We’re selfish like that.