I grew up in an age of birthday parties at the home of the child who was having the birthday. We dressed up for the parties. We opened gifts while other children were there. I remember those at-home parties being a lot of fun as a child. Then, when I became a parent, the emergence of off-location parties gained popularity. I didn’t know if that was due to moving to New York or if it had to do with things changing in life. With parents working and trying to keep life together, it’s certainly easier (and less invasive) to have a party at another location.
Elaborate parties of this generation have ranged from indoor swimming parties, ice skating parties, bowling parties, gymnastic parties, Build-a-Bear parties, to renting out a movie theater at an odd hour in the morning to watch a movie with popcorn, pizza, and a cake. These parties ranged in price, but some exceeded $300.00. It started to get so crazy with the parties, gift bags, etc., that it made me wonder what happened to the good, old-fashioned parties. Children didn’t even have enough time to open gifts at these parties, and I’ll never forget my first experience of shock when I watched parents shove the unopened gifts into a garbage bag and haul it to the car. None of the children even had the moment to experience watching the birthday child open their gift.
During this generation (and in my location), rarely is a party thrown at home except in the case of a not-so-common slumber party. When my daughter requested an at-home party in the midst of my fixer upper not being so fixed up, I looked around wondering how presentable I could make it prior to anyone coming to the house. I decided to take it on as a challenge. She’s proud of where she lives and wanted her friends to come over. I understand that line of thinking. At the same time, I’m looking at the un-patched holes in the walls, broken tile on the bathroom floor, and claw marks on a door from a previous homeowner locking a dog in the bathroom. I looked at the calendar, looked at the house, and decided that I might not be done with repairs until she’s in her 20’s. Then, her entire childhood would be gone. Was it that bad to have a party at an incomplete house?
The answer to that question is to have the party whether your renovations are done or not. As long as you don’t have a major construction zone going on, just do it. I have four daughters with ages ranging from 11 to 23, and I’m aware of how fast time flies.
My daughter wanted a movie party at the house. I looked online for something resembling a movie ticket. I found a free printable resembling that looked like one. I downloaded it, opened it up in Paint Shop Pro, and added text boxes with the information regarding the party into it. I picked up a box of cards at the local craft store (with my 40% coupon), and used the cards to print the invitations. I used a document type of program with the page sized to fit my card with margins in order to print it out properly. I did this by creating a page size and inserting the picture into the size. Then, I stretched it to fit. It printed out beautifully this way.
The rule of thumb is to hand out invitations two weeks in advance so people can plan accordingly. But, here’s a new one with the latest generation – people don’t seem to know what R.S.V.P. means. R.S.V.P means, “Répondez s’il vous plaît.” In layman’s terms, PLEASE RESPOND whether you’re planning on attending or not! As a mom who has had children for many years, I’ve noticed that in the past few years that parents don’t seem to care whether or not they respond to invites. You’re suppose to respond whether you are going or aren’t going to a party. Not responding at all has become the norm and seems to be demonstrating the rudeness our society. For one party, we actually had to send out reminder invitations. It actually turned me off to throwing another party because it was such a hassle to get parents to respond. Of course, I don’t know that the parents are all to blame. Kids have been known to bury the invitations in book bags and forget they were there. I’ve had a few given to me last minute. When my kids tell me they’re invited to a party, I have them locate the invitation right then and there, and call the parent so I won’t forget. For this party, the invitations were handed out, ONE parent called right away, and my daughter continually reminded her friends to have their parents call until we had a party consisting of nine children.
To create a movie themed party, I found popcorn cups online. My daughter wanted me to make caramel corn. The night before the party, I made a few batches, let it cool, and filled the cups. Then, I covered them with plastic wrap and wrapped tape around it in order to keep the caramel corn fresh.
We had a plan to serve movie theater style popcorn in the same cups for the movie.
Then, the caramel corn would go home because we had so much food for the kids. I made homemade pizza upon their arrival. After they gathered, we served the pizza, got the movie ready, and when the movie was in play, they were all sent to the dining room table to pick out their choice of movie sized candy. Our local A&P sold the candy, so it was easy to find.
The girls couldn’t stop talking or moving through the movie because they were just too excited about being together. We served the cupcakes and had an ice cream sundae bar. They challenged each other with making the biggest sundaes with the most toppings. At this point, the children started chanting, “SUGAR! SUGAR! SUGAR!” We were thinking trouble was about to ensue.
My kitchen table was moved, one of the girls hooked her Ipod up to my radio. They started to blast music…and then…my second oldest daughter brought a strobe light into the kitchen. We hung it from a chandelier, and my kitchen became a disco. This was an unplanned move, but the girls were laughing so hard and had so much fun. I heard them ask my daughter if they could spend the night.
Despite the incomplete renovations, none of the kids seemed to notice or care. They just loved being together. In the end, one of the girls said to her mother, “This was the best party I’ve ever been to…” It made me think that all of that money spent on parties in other locations…all of the people trying to one up each other with a better party than the last…but, really, in the end, the kids want to spend time hanging out with each other instead of swimming, ice skating, and making things. It was an eye opening experience for me. My daughter knew what kids wanted. The rest of us, as parents, keep forgetting that the new age of kids and computer leads to kids not playing together as much as we did when we were kids – which renders an at-home party as being more amazing than all the other “amazing” things we think we’re coming up with at these other parties. To hear the kids’ excitement asking if my daughter could open her presents while they were there brought back memories of the past – to a point where I thought history really needed to repeat itself with all of us.