How To: birthday parties

by Carolyn on June 25, 2009

After yesterday’s post, I felt like some levity was in order. I have been mulling over this post for a while now. I hope it’s tone and humour appeals to more than just us grown up children of divorce. This can be a funny subject too, you know.

Some of us may not need this little ‘how to’. But for those of us who don’t have Bruce Willis and Demi Moore for parents, enjoy.

The grown up child’s guide to throwing their own kid’s birthday party and having everyone survive the night:

  1. Accomodate. It’s easy to take the higher than thou position and say that this is your child’s party and none of this BS has any place in it. And you would be 100% correct. But put yourself in your parent’s shoes. Imagine your best friend was throwing a party and your ex was going to be there. Not just be there, but be there with his girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband. Now imagine the date of the party was the only night your amazingly hot girlfriend/boyfriend (you get the idea) couldn’t be there. You would want your friend to do you a solid too. Really, in the end the more comfortable everyone is, the better.
  2. Be Honest: Although it might be tempting to tell your dad that the party ends at 4:00 pm and tell your mom it starts at 5:00 pm….don’t! It won’t work. First, no matter how unobservant your dad is, he’s bound to notice that nobody else is packing up at 4 and you will definitely get some weird looks when you pull out a fresh cake and prompt everyone to sing ‘happy birthday’ again at 5.
  3. Be Clear About the Guest List: Now I would completely understand if you would rather be kidnapped by a group of circus performers and be put on elephant dung detail than tell your mom that dad is bringing his new girlfriend to the party or vice versa. But again there’s no getting around this one. The outcome will be much worse if the surprise occurs at the party..with onlookers. So take a deep breath and make the phone call. Chat about something cheery, drop it in inconspicuously, sandwich it with a question and then get off the phone as fast as possible. The conversation should go something like this ‘so anyway, about the party….I was thinking about getting a balloon bouquet and dad is bringing a date. (important: do not pause here) What are you planning to get ____ for her birthday? Oh, someone’s at the door. I’ll call you later.’. Another important note: don’t call back for at least 48 hours.
  4. Consider the Spatial Relations: If your parents can’t stand to be in the same room together, spread the party out. Have munchie and drink stations in multiple rooms. This may seem inconvenient, but consider your other guests. No one needs to get hurt by some stray dagger flying from one of your parent’s eyes.
  5. Keep Them Occupied: Here are a simple list of jobs to keep your parents occupied and thereby not free to seethe, glare, make snide remarks or hide: keeping the chip bowls full, drink detail, fridge stocking, craft time leader, gift wrap picker upper, coat patrol, gift table organizer, candle lighter….I have more; feel free to ask.
  6. Don’t have them bring any food for the party: Murphy’s Law would prove that the one dish mom or dad happened to comment upon would inevitably be their ex-spouse’s. And you really can’t win here. If the comment is negative…well the result is self explanatory. Especially if the dish was prepared not by the ex-spouse, but by the new spouse (in which case you might as well just pack it in). And even if the comment is good, now the commenter’s new spouse or date may get their feathers ruffled. Trust me, this is a can of worms to avoid at all costs. Cook yourself. Or have it catered.
  7. Decline any offers of party preparation help: No need to provide the opportunity for one upmanship. Do it yourself, even if it takes you all night.
  8. Open family gifts outside of the party: There are a few reasons for this. First, you don’t want to get into the aforementioned pissing match. Secondly, if your kid doesn’t like your dad’s gift but loves your mom’s, things could get dicey. Thirdly, again don’t drag other guests into it. Some unsuspecting onlooker may gush about dad’s gift only to find he’s suddenly getting the stink eye from mom. And nobody likes getting the stink eye.
  9. Assign someone to alcohol duty: Chances are there will be a lot of family there who know the situation. And chances are that there will be a lot of tight lipped cordiality from the whole lot. And that is great. That’s just what you want.  There is only one thing can ruin that whole pretty picture. And that’s Aunt Bessie getting liquored up and spouting off stories from the ‘good old days’ when mom and dad were married. Give this task to someone very trustworthy. And tell them this: that if they don’t succeed you will get hammered at their next function and do your best to get everyone to dance the Macarena.
  10. Relax: Really.  Relax.  Your parents love you and they love your kids.  They aren’t going to do anything to spoil the day.  So take a deep breath and enjoy yourself.  But just to be safe…..you’d better take precautions 1 through 9!
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Birthday parties and other fun stuff… — The Grown Up Child
October 3, 2009 at 8:51 pm

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carolyn July 2, 2009 at 10:52 pm

From Tammy on June 23, 2009

Too funny! Especially from the party planner of the year!

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2 Carolyn July 2, 2009 at 10:53 pm

From Urchin on June 24, 2009

Oh how neat! I’m going to have to send this on to a few friends who have kids and are products of divorce. It’ll actually help one of my other friends who just GOT a divorce and her son…

well let’s say dad’s on my long list of people in line for what I call “the happy stick.” Remind me to tell you about it sometime.

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3 Mellisa October 10, 2009 at 8:49 am

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!! I started on the link that you left in the blog roll and have made it to here…I am not finished reading your blog but wanted to say thanks for this post. I am having a b-day party for my 2 sons tomorrow and both my husband and I are products of divorce…so we have 3 sets of parents and their spouses coming over. I needed a good laugh or else I might cry thinking about the logistics of it!! You have a great blog and I like your writing style!! I am going to sign up for e-mail updates is you have them!
.-= Mellisa ´s last blog ..Happy Birthday: To My Great Grandma!! =-.

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4 Carolyn October 13, 2009 at 10:17 pm

Oi! You are in for a doozie! I hope the day went well!

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