Children's birthday parties are in full swing. Apparently, no one is born between October and March; they all wait for warmer weather. Paolo is booked for three weekends in a row, and I'm turning down invitations because there are multiple parties on the same day! Now, heaven knows Paolo doesn't have that many friends. It's just that his classmates' parents invite every child in the class to eat hot dogs and take swings at a piñata in honor of their little snotnoses. I don't get that. Maybe my kid is strange, but he doesn't like all the kids in his class. Frankly, his birthday party would have been ruined by some of those little shits showing up. So I didn't invite them.
Besides, I've taken Paolo to enough of his classmates' birthday parties to know it's always the little shits who show up: the ones who demand to open and keep the birthday presents, who have to have their sticky fingers pried off the piñata-thumping stick so someone else can have a turn, who have screaming fits when denied an extra piece of cake or third lollipop. It's edifying, though, to observe the mothers of these little beasts in action. They spend the entire party chastising, threatening, taking pictures, getting pummeled, rolling their eyes, and having zero effect on improving their child's behavior. Oh, that's why your kid is that way. You only speak to him to say no, and you never look him in the eye. It's no surprise he does the same with you. And yet, you never miss a party.
I miss as many parties as I can; I guard my weekends fiercely. I work full-time, and every minute I spend with Paolo is important to me. So, every birthday party invitation has to pass a three-step test. First, do I know this child? There are close to thirty kids in Paolo's class, so this isn't easy. I tend to know who's evil and who's lovely, but the kids in the middle can fall through the cracks. Second, I ask Paolo if he knows this child. If so, are they friends? This question gets me out of a lot of parties. Third, I factor in our availability for the date, as well as the venue and any special features, such as superhero dress or pony rides.
Whether or not I decide to go, I keep the invitation until the event date. I learned my lesson. If I do plan to go, I always RSVP and bring a small, wrapped present that Paolo and I purchase together. It's a current trend for parents to write "No Gifts Required" on the invitation. Now, I know the parents have bought way too much crap for their kid's birthday, and considering they've invited 30 kids to the party, Birthday Boy/Girl truly does not need a present from each attendee. Tough. My father taught me NEVER to show up empty-handed - not to a dinner party, a holiday party, and certainly not a kid's birthday party. If you don't want so many presents, be more selective with your guest list.
I do not mean to insinuate that having Paolo attend a child's party is some sort of honor. He will hang back most of the time, reserving his enthusiasm for the pinata and cupcakes. (To a four-year-old, if you have those two items on hand, you have yourself a party.) Paolo tends to weird out the adults because he doesn't act like a crack-addled monkey, but he will hand over his present without complaint, take turns at games, and wish a happy birthday to the Birthday Boy/Girl and and thank the hosts when we leave. So take THAT you parents who all seem to know each other and have SO much to talk about, while I smile politely and mentally drink myself unconcious. After about two hours of frosted bliss for Paolo and crushing discomfort for me, my well-behaved boy and I head home. It's a bittersweet feeling as we depart, favor bag in-hand, knowing that my elation at surviving another birthday party will be quickly crushed by the next little envelope in Paolo's school take-home folder.