Raising Davis: What’s The Deal With Birthday Parties?



Estimated Reading Time 3 Minutes

Working mom Meghan Bradley navigates the world of birthday party ball rooms and unfamiliar parents.

Davis was only two-and-a-half years old when he came home from daycare with an invitation to a birthday party. I was thrilled, thinking how adorable it would be to see a bunch of pre-schoolers being initiated into the magic of birthday parties. My baby boy was going to a birthday party, barely out of pull-ups! But then I wondered, when did hosting birthday parties under the age of three begin?
I was now flooded with questions. Who are the parents? What do I buy for a present? How much do I spend? Would it be awkward standing around an indoor playground for two hours with parents I have yet to meet? I was totally in the dark about how this was all to go down. I quizzed Davis about what his little pre-school friend would like for her birthday as he was my only resource. We hit the Walmart and he selected a big Dora doll and insisted she would love it. We wrapped it up and off we went to the party.
TDavis going to a birthday partyhe indoor playground was a sea of kids and parents. Davis jumped in without hesitation. He recognized his other little friends and he was ready to party. I, on the other hand, knew no one. I scanned the room until I found a man holding a cake. Aha! He must be the dad. I introduced myself and felt a little more at ease. And then I introduced myself to some of the other parents. It was nice to swap stories about our kids.
Since then, the invitations have continued to roll in and Davis and I have been making the rounds. He has been to parties at hobby farms, trampoline playgrounds, indoor playgrounds and people’s houses. Sometimes I drop him off, sometimes I stay. The first time I dropped him off I was unsure what to do. This party was also at an indoor gym. The kids were supervised by a couple of the gym’s staff in a big room with a window so the parents could watch. I soon realized I was the only parent watching, other than the ones hosting the party. I sheepishly asked if I should I leave. They politely suggested that I might enjoy doing some shopping. Well, I was hesitant about leaving my little guy with strangers, but I headed to my favourite store and enjoyed some ‘me’ time. These birthday parties were starting to grow on me!
A couple of weeks ago, I arrived at a home birthday party, with my two hours of freedom all planned, to find that every parent was staying! I have started to do my homework and find out the etiquette ahead of time:

  • Instead of wondering what I should do for each party, I pick up the phone or email the parent. (This is a good time to get their names in the rare instances when it’s not on the invitation.)
  • I ask what sort of gift their child would like.
  • I ask if they prefer the parents to stay or drop off their child.
  • In the case of a home party, I ask if I can help or even bring something.

Davis is going to be five in August and it is time to plan his first kid party. Who shall I invite? Who has food allergies? Will the parents stay or go? What do I put in the goodie bags? And so the confusion will all begin again…

Published May 2010

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