We gotta fight for our right not to party, Chris Ryan argues.
I’ll never forget the screams when the T-Rex stomped into the playground. Children gasped, screeched and wailed. They pushed each other out of the way as they raced to hide behind the slippery dip.
The grandpa in the T-Rex suit was stoked with the reaction. Swept up in his role, he roared at the scattering kids. Then he came for the birthday boy, head jerking forward, mouth snapping closed.
It was only when the kid burst into tears that grandpa broke out of character. He picked up the boy and tried to comfort him. And the three-year-old finally saw his grandpa’s head – stuck inside a T-Rex’s mouth. He lost his shit.
Kids are unpredictable at the best of times. Throw a dozen together, load them with sugar and let them loose, and tantrums and tears are the order of the day. At least if there’s a T-Rex at the centre of the chaos it’s also funny (for the parents).
There hasn’t been much drama at our own kid’s parties yet. At his first birthday he rolled on a rug in the park while his older cousins rode around on their scooters and I caught up with my brothers and sisters over a few beers.
Ah, those were the days. First birthdays are the best because they aren’t about the kid. It’s about the parents surviving the year. Mum and dad can enjoy a drink and tell themselves things only get easier. But that’s definitely not the case with kids’ parties.
At our son’s second birthday we pandered to his tastes. Our house was like the set of Kitchen Nightmares. Icing and the f-word flew about the kitchen as we tried to decorate a train cake. The party, again just with relatives, was in a park that had model trains and a strict no beer policy. There wasn’t much fun, either.
Come the kid’s third birthday he asked to invite friends. I almost told him he didn’t have friends; he had a few cellmates from daycare. Luckily we had another excuse to keep things low-key – his baby sister was born two weeks earlier.
Our son felt hard done by. Now his fourth birthday is six months away and he’s already telling us what he wants. He’s asking for a cake with “every dinosaur” and wants to invite all his friends.
I dread kids’ parties with my son’s “friends”. There’s a lot of time spent loitering by the snack table, eating fairy bread and talking to parents I don’t know, about kids I don’t care about (meaning their kids, not mine).
If I could make a rule about kids’ parties it would be a simple one: they aren’t allowed. Between Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, kids are making a killing already.
Of course a blanket ban isn’t about to happen. Instead I have a few suggestions for kids’ parties, which people can also ignore.
1. Booze should be served: it’s not about drinking or getting drunk, it’s about creating the illusion that parents might want to be at the party (and no, seeing your child have fun isn’t reason enough).
2. No presents: the ocean is choking with plastic. Why add to the mix with cheap pressies that are binned within weeks? Plus, kids have too much crap.
3. No clowns or magicians: obviously.
4. No dress ups: I don’t need to waste one more minute of my life dressing our kids.
5. No fancy cakes: if you want to prove you’re a genius in the kitchen, audition for Masterchef. This isn’t your day.
Once kids go to a few shitty parties in a row they’ll be happy with the low standard and life will be easier for everyone. Not that my wife understands the brilliance of the no-frills party plan. She reckons I’m no fun, and says a lot of people get pretty excited about baking a fancy birthday cake.
And there’s the reason, in a nutshell, why kids’ parties are out of hand: most of the time it’s all about the parents. Personally, I’d be happy if I never had to go to one again.
Though I might reconsider that, if someone can sort me out with a T-Rex suit.
READ MORE FROM CHRIS RYAN:
- How I lifted my game to be a better influence on my kids
- How I found myself hostage to a toddler and his turds
- Second sentence: The 5 ways our firstborn prepared me to go again