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My daughter’s third birthday party was my first encounter with the Birthday-Industrial Complex. It was a far cry from my birthdays growing up, where we played party games like ‘Kick the Can’ and ‘Put the Can on Your Head’ and ‘Throw the Can.’ After which we all fought over one small cupcake and got Tetanus shots instead of a goody bag.
At 2-years-old, kids are like diaper-wearing sheep. It doesn’t matter where you have the party, everybody is happy. You literally could put all of the wrapping paper from all the gifts on the floor of the garage and the kids would be content. At three, however, they need to be corralled and entertained at the same time. Which is why many of my daughter’s friends have had their parties at a place I describe as Chuck-E-Cheese’s on steroids relocated to Burning Man. The walls are white, the pop music is loud, and the kids’ screams of (mostly) delight are louder. I would gladly chip in to help this place secure a liquor license.
What stunned me, though, was the cost. I’m pretty sure it’s cheaper to go to Burning Man than have a party at this place, and so we decided to throw a more low-key affair at our house. Also worth noting was that we were having the party a month before my daughter’s actual birthday because my wife was eight months pregnant with our second child. Not surprisingly, our daughter didn’t mind celebrating her birthday early in the least. Wait, I don’t have to wait another month for cake and presents? Oh, the horror.
And so our first task was letting her pick a theme. She chose Frozen, a movie she loves despite only watching the first 20 minutes approximately 750 times. Then, my wife sprung into action, figuring out Frozen-themed food (pretzel sticks were “Olaf’s Arms,”), activities (wand-making, anyone?), and decorations.
The biggest debate we had, of course, was how much pizza to order. We figured about two pieces per kid, but what about the adults? Would they eat or just finish what their kids left behind? The party was taking place over lunch so we assumed the adults would eat. Which is why, naturally, we had about five whole pizzas left at the end of the party.
This seems to be a problem at most kids’ parties, with the hosts at first cheerily asking the adults to help themselves to some pizza but then desperately pleading with them to have a slice. So, I’d hereby like to propose a Party Pizza Rule: The number of slices to be ordered for a child’s birthday party is the number of kids coming to the party times three. This gives the kids lunch and the parents a little something to nosh on without forcing pizza on anyone. Or, the kid eats all of the pizza and, combined with the cake, lapses into a food coma in the afternoon. Everyone wins!
Despite the extra pizza (which we tried to give away at the end of the party like an adult goody bag) and the bad weather (that pesky rain forced the festivities mostly indoors), everyone had a good time at the party and there was only a meltdown or two ⏤ but then I got a cup of “Elsa’s Punch” and was fine. I could go on really, but how much does anybody want to read about a 3-year-old’s birthday party. Better if I just let it go.
I did, however, learn the best thing about kid’s parties: No one lingers. The party officially ended at 1 p.m. By 1:03 p.m., only our family members were left in the house. Our daughter’s Frozen soiree broke neither the bank nor my wife and me. And, most importantly, she had fun. The smile on her face made everything worth it.
Now, please, take a piece of pizza before you go.
Danny Jacobs is an editor in Ellicott City, Maryland. He prefers birthday pie to birthday cake.