Sometimes parenting seems like a secret society with etiquette rules no one ever talks about, especially during birthday parties. It’s overwhelming and awkward and terrible, so avoid it all together by following these commandments.
1. Thou shalt not send my kid an invitation on Friday for a birthday party on Saturday
Hey, I’m not saying you need to plan six months in advance for a trip to your local inflatable place. We’re all busy, and I get that. But if you send an invite home with my kid the day before the party complete with taped on lollipop and promises of cupcakes and fun, and we already have something going on, then I have to be the jerk if we can’t go. If we can still go, then I have to call you last minute to find out what to bring, which brings us to…
2. Thou shalt not say, “Oh, don’t worry about it,” when I ask you what to get your kid
No one means this. I know no one means this because I made the mistake of taking someone at her word when she said this, and then we were literally the only people that showed up gift-free. I did this twice because I’m a moron. Now is not the time for modesty or to feign magnanimity. Just tell me what your dumb kid wants.
3. Thou shalt be explicit as to whether you want parents to stick around
The worst part of any party is the awkward 15 minutes right at the beginning when parents show up, trying to decide if this is the type of party where you drop your kid off and bounce, or if you’re supposed to stick around. Either way is fine, just say what you want or I’m going to split and go take a nap.
4. Thou shalt not make anyone over the age of 12 participate
Mother-daughter pin the tail on the donkey sucks and no one likes it. There. Someone had to tell you.
5. Thou shalt let your kid open his presents whenever he damn well pleases
Ugh. The “we open presents at home” thing. I mean, I get it if there’s limited time at the venue of whatever but if I’ve successfully off-loaded gift-picking duty onto my kid, she’s gonna be crushed if she doesn’t get to watch her friend open presents. Also, it’s really awkward to watch your kid throw a tantrum because you’re still inexplicably hoarding his presents for him even though he isn’t 2-years-old. I understand the sentiment behind not wanting kids to feel left out, but those kids need to suck it up. If you can’t be special on your own birthday, then what’s the point?
6. Thou shalt be specific about what kind of food you’re having
I’m all for skipping the six-dish spread, so I really don’t care if you don’t want to cook or order pizza or whatever. I’m with you. Just don’t be coy about it. If you’re serving ice cream cake at dinner time I’m a billion percent on board with that. Say something, though, so I can give my kid some real food first so she doesn’t puke in the back of my car like a lightweight college freshman on the way back home.
7. Thou shalt be up front about what kind of gifts you don’t want for your kid
This goes along with commandment No. 2. It’s not like I’m going to judge you if you hate Harry Potter because you believe he’s in collusion with the devil (OK, I probably will judge you a little). But for the love of God, say something before I buy it, please.
8. Thou shalt not get weird when it’s time to leave
Just let people go. Don’t try to plan a playdate; don’t try to get us to stay. Don’t make it weird.
9. Thou shalt grant a reprieve to anyone trying to escape without a goody bag
If parents are trying to leave sans sack o’crap, wink knowingly and pretend you don’t see them. Don’t be that parent: The one that chases a kid down to give them a mini vuvuzela for the hour-long drive home.
10. Thou shalt not hire clowns
OK, you can hire evil, terrifying, murder-clowns if you want, but everyone will probably hate you for it. Just so you know.