Old age has introduced new forms of despair in my life. Yes, I’m talking about birthday parties for kids. The kid birthday party concept needs reformation. The current model results in escalation a la the Cold War arms race.
From my experience, this is how it goes. Kid gets invited to the first birthday party of the season. You’re obligated to buy a present for Kid to bring along, so you shell out money for a Lego set or a nerf gun or whatever. That’s a problem right there, as there isn’t a socially approved option of being thrifty and making a present instead (such as a painted rock, a toilet paper roll action figure or a box of garden snails).
Anyway, presents aside, the real problem is the scope of the party. You and Kid arrive and the party has a piñata, a small riding pony, and face-painting. Your uncontrollable mental calculator adds up the costs. You think, hmm… not too bad.
But, as the year progresses, the parties escalate according to the Keeping-Up-With-the-Joneses principle. This is not a new principle. In fact, Plato wrote about it back in the 400s, only he called it Keeping-Up-With-Pythagoras.
Anyway, the next birthday party has a juggling clown and a ventriloquist. The one after that has a Russian trapeze act. The next party has the Lipizzaner horses flown over from Austria. The party after that, Kim Jong-un parachutes in and does magic tricks, followed by the chorus line of Cats performing a medley of Broadway hits.
If all that isn’t bad enough, there’s the food. It’s a minefield of dietary restrictions, social justicism, and cultural twirpiness. No meat. Only organics. Only hotdogs made from textured soy protein. No dairy. No hydrogenated oils. No MSG. This is a pity because kids love that stuff. If you made milkshakes out of hydrogenated oil and MSG, the kids would slurp them down like anteaters slurping ants. Standing around with other parents discussing food at parties is worse than getting a tax audit.
Parent A: My Ronnie is vegetarian. Eggs make him weep for the lives of chickens that will never be. He’s such a sensitive boy. I think he’ll be an artist.
Parent B: Well, my little LaFonda is a sustainable fruitarian. She cares about the earth.
Parent D: My Brianna only eats food imported from Iceland.
This is why my policy is no birthday parties. We will send you a polite letter of declination, written in crayon, along with a tastefully wrapped present (a beet from our garden, a spare sock, etc).