With hoards of kids running around on a screaming sugar high and balloon artists shoving colorful ducks and swords in your face, the rules of children's party etiquette can get blurred pretty quickly...unless you play it right. Here are the 3 rules for survival.
Being a father is hands-down the greatest job on the planet. I have two of the coolest kids (Maddy, 6 and Cole, 2) and since they’ve come into my life, I’ve learned many valuable lessons..
For starters, I had no idea that you could still operate a motor vehicle on only 3 hours of sleep. I also had no clue that any place can become a “changing room” in a pinch. I also wasn't aware that kids birthday parties are wilder than any rave. Between hoards of kids running around on a sugar high and balloon artists and musicians shoving party favors in your face, you can lose all rational thought, making the rules of etiquette more blurry than the memories of my first week in college.
So, with that, check out my top 3 quick and dirty tips for surviving a kids birthday party:
Tip #1: Hover
FACT: Boys and girls are very different when it comes to their level or rowdiness. My daughter can sit down and do crafts for hours on end, while my 2-year-old son would rather perform Cirque du Soleil-like acrobatics on the furniture.
So when it comes time for a children's birthday party, I know very well that my son will be the last one to “take it easy” when confronted with trampolines, jungle gyms, ropes, and rubber balls. I’m so guarded of his wild ways, that I behave like a bodyguard for One Direction amidst a crowd of screaming 12-year-olds. And I say this with all the love in the world for my dear little boy.
Knowing that my toddler can’t quite understand the concept of, “Wait-wait-wait-wait!” when running full speed into a ball pit, I make it my duty to constantly have an eye on him. And that’s my only job at a kids party. Not to eat cake (which is my weakness), not to chat it up with the other parents while Cole dives headfirst off a chair, and not to play games on my phone.
I’m there to ensure that he, and the children around him, come home in one piece and I don’t have to replace anything he broke at the host’s house. Is this really what I'd like to be doing at 10am on Saturday morning? Prior to having kids, I’d have to ask you what 10am on a Saturday even looked like, but nowadays as a father, I’ve already been up for 5 hours.
This is the norm and this is a major part of being a parent. Your team comes first and it’s your only mission. Do not let your kid run around unwatched or dish them off to someone else while you take a call or send a tweet. You’re there to help them have fun and be safe. Your comfort and enjoyment is a distant second. Deal with it.
Tip #2: Take Turns
Being a parent means you will most likely not see your friends (outside of the office) on a weekly basis. So when a kids birthday party comes around, you’re bound to run into a dozen or so people you wish you could hang out with every week.
When my wife and I had just our daughter, we’d go to kids parties together because they were new and fun and every little thing my daughter did was a discovery. Now, with two kids, and having been to more toddler parties in 6 years than adult parties in 20, it’s more like an intense bargaining session of who has to go and who gets a few hours of quiet time. A simple party invitation can bring up the following conversation: “If you go, I’ll empty the dishwasher, wash your car for a month…and give you my kidney.”
To ensure that an Elmo-themed birthday party doesn’t turn into a Wild West standoff between you and your spouse, the thing to do is to determine whose friend the party is really for. For example, if the parent is someone I know better than my wife – or socialize with more (like an old college friend, a coworker, etc.) then I am the first one to raise my hand and fall on the sword. However, if it’s more my wife's friend, then she takes the reigns. This simple rule works as the great equalizer.