Valuable Advice: Planning your child's birthday party

The 3rd Best Unsolicited Advice You'll Ever Receive, Or Your Money Back

Dear Advice Seekers,

People often say, "I could really use some advice" and "There's nothing better than advice from a trusted friend" and "What I wouldn't give for some top-notch advice on this delicate issue I'm facing." 

Strangely, however, these same people often quickly add, "But you know what I hate more than anything? Getting preachy advice you didn't ask for, especially from a stranger."  And then they start talking about people in grocery stores who tell them don't eat this or that or you'll get cancer, or don't pick up that cat litter or your fetus will abort, or don't go to Lane 5 because last time that lady did NOT scan my coupons properly and I had to go to customer service to get my receipt adjusted and it took 10 minutes.  And then they look at me very pointedly, and start talking about "people" who offer advice without being asked, and how "invasive" and "annoying" that is.  And I can really relate to that, because I am an expert in the advice department.

If I've learned one thing since I launched my career as semi-professional (read: unpaid) purveyor of unsolicited advice, it's this: When in doubt, it's always best to err on the side of providing as much valuable if unsolicited advice as possible, and perhaps one day people will learn to appreciate that advice, and think back and say, "You know, at the time, it seemed like terrible advice, but now I really regret not following it." And then I'll get your retroactive thanks for trying to help when you needed it most, and also the personal satisfaction of knowing that I was once that one thing that could have helped you, before you chose the wrong path and make a lot of poor, ill-advised, decisions. So you might want to keep that destiny in mind as you fail to heed this valuable advice, and one day you can write me a nice note about how you wish you'd listened to me while you had the chance, and (if I have time), I'll write back with a very gracious and humble note, full of empathy and personal touches, and give you some new advice about how you might make the most out of what's left of your life.  So this is kind of a long-term relationship, and I'm glad to play such an important role in that.

Today's tips are especially for parents and children's party-throwers, but should be of value to anyone who attends these parties as well.  Enjoy...and you're welcome.


PS If you missed it, here's the Best Unsolicited Advice You'll Ever Receive, and the 2nd Best Unsolicited Advice You'll Ever Receive.

Party tip: For a "playful" look, let the kids decorate the cupcakes, then you don't have to take responsibility for how messed up they turned out! Don't trust your kids that much? No problem! Just sigh and say "Little helpers!" every time someone mentions the cupcakes and your guests will just assume this half-assed work was their effort. Who's the cool mom, now?

Valuable advice: Planning your child's birthday party
Chances are, you want your child to remember this day forever, and in a good way, so here are a few tips:
  1. Spend a fortune!  This is probably the most important advice I can offer if you want your party to be memorable to both your child and your guests. The sky is the limit when it comes to your child, so why would you want to jeopardize his or her love by letting him or her know that your love for him or her is worth a maximum of, say, $200?  Can you really measure your love in dollars? No. So get a new credit card and really make sure this thing is perfect. Because if I know one thing about kids, it's this: no matter how much you spend, they're still going to find something to complain about, so try as hard as you can to prevent this by spending every penny you have on your misguided attempts to buy their affection.
  2. Choose a theme they won't forget. Nothing shows your kid how much more mature you think they are than the other kids than throwing a party better suited for adults - and nothing shows those kids' parents how cool you are more than picking a theme that's also an expression of your own vices.  For the preschool set, consider a Grand Theft Auto-bration! or Lil' Godfathers or any other war/violence-themed party. For a cute baby-bordello theme for girls, try a  Bratz (TM) or Barbie (TM) or Baby Gaga (TM, I assume) Costume Party! (Bonus for hot moms: this gives you your big chance to dress the part and let the cleavage you want to show anyway be a featured "decoration" at the party!).  For grade schoolers, who've seen it all, get creative! Think "The Hangover" - you can't go wrong with the gender-neutral Vegas Nite, complete with showgirl outfits, fun play-for-treats gambling activities, and fruit punch served in martini glasses. (Bonus tip: To go the extra mile, place a strawberry "pimento" inside a green grape "olive" and place it in the kiddie cocktail on a decorative toothpick. Too cute!!!)
  3. Ensure your child receives the best possible gifts.  You may have noticed a trend lately to downplay the gift-getting and materialism of children's birthday parties by including a note in the invitation that says something like "Jacob would like to collect donations for The American Foundation to Destroy Public Education. Please bring donation of any amount you feel comfortable with in lieu of a gift. Checks can be made payable to Betsy DeVos."  First of all, poor Jacob, for being born into that family.  Second, this is just a trick to get you to think the parents are all save-the-worldish and better than you. Don't fall for it.  Luckily for you, however, I have the perfect solution to this problem that will both make YOU appear to be as superior and altruistic as the next guy by earning money for a good cause while still ensuring that your child's party includes the gifts you've paid so much to make sure s/he receives.  It's all in the wording:  "Our family has set a goal to raise $1000 for Doctors Without Borders this year.  If you'd also like to contribute to this wonderful cause that helps children all over the world, please consider including a donation."  What? That makes no sense!  "Also" as in, "in addition to us" or "in addition to your gift?"  And  "consider including a donation?!" As in "including it with your gift?" Yes. Consider including it in addition to your gift. Your guests will be unclear and feel obligated to both bring a gift and contribute to the cause. Win and win. Note: If someone dares call you for clarification on this (which they won't), be sure to use the following expressions: "Oh, it's totally up to you" and "We aren't expecting anything, but I'm sure Annie will be thrilled with anything she receives."
  4. Get the details right. First off, have your party at a decent hour. If your party is at 3:00 pm, and my son wakes me up at 5:52 am on a Saturday because he's so excited for those two hours of bowling and pizza, I don't want to hear about it for the next 9 hours straight - I've already been listening to this all week.  Have the party around noon, and serve lunch. Also, make it clear if parents are invited or not. If they are, be sure to have decent food and drinks. If they aren't, make sure your party lasts for more than two hours so I can get some work done while he's there.  And be sure the location is easy to find - or, better yet, hire a Fun Bus to pick up all the guests so that their parents don't have to be involved at all, and can just spend the day in bed, or whatever.
  5. Make sure the parents sign a waiver protecting you from liability in the event that their child is injured - or worse.  It's always preferable to have a lingering threat in the air at a children's party, so that the adults in charge of supervising people don't slack off, but you should do this even if there's no real element of danger at your party (bounce house, horse rides, fire juggling, etc).  It adds a certain air of authority to your invitation that other parents will envy, and perhaps emulate.
  6. Let your child be the star!  Don't miss out on any opportunity to reinforce your child's self-esteem and sense of entitlement on his/her big day.  There are countless ways to achieve this, but here are some of my favorites:
    • Plaster your child's image on everything. The invitation, the place cards, the cake, the decorations. Everything.  Brand the crap out of that party with your kid's face. Don't let anyone forget: this party is about JACOB. And Jacob is the best.
    • Don't miss a thing. Hover if you have to. Be the eyes and ears of every adult conversation that happens at the party and don't miss a single chance to object, correct, redirect or otherwise inject your two cents about how Jacob is already advanced/superior/outgrown that particular skill/item/interest.  
    • Comment on everything, and make sure your comments all either directly or indirectly reinforce the fact that your child is the Best Kid At The Party. Suggestions:
      • "What a cute shirt! Jacob had one very similar to that when he was 5"
      •  "Oh! ANOTHER Lego Ninjago Battle Chromosome Detector Staircase! How thoughtful!"
      • "Looks like someone really likes pizza!"
      • "Don't worry about the spill - accidents happen. Jacob used to do that all the time, too."
      • "Did you do your hair all by yourself today?"
  7. Above all, have fun! Your child's big day only comes once a year, so don't let him/her ruin it by whining, arguing, acting ungrateful, complaining, dallying, overeating, being rude, bossing people around, fighting, playing too rough, or being disrespectful. Make sure your child knows that being the star is very important to you, and he or she will never forget this special day because it's going to be the most fun he or she has ever had in their entire life, as long as they don't mess it up. So have fun - or we're taking all these gifts to kids who will appreciate them. 

Give 'em what they want.

1 comment:

  1. If only I'd had parties like this when I was a child, I wouldn't be so left leaning.