Many years ago (BC -- before children) I worked at Parents Magazine. I don't remember too many specific articles, but one that I remember was about birthday parties. One particular piece of information that stuck with me was a discussion of how many children you should invite to your child's party. The answer? The child's age plus 1. I have used that number every year -- when my children went to fun parties at Chelsea Piers and Jodi's gym, with 30 or 40 children in attendance, I stuck with the Parents Magazine rule of thumb. For me, six friends was manageable, 30 was chaos. This number also helped me follow rule number 137 from The Good Mommy Rulebook (TGMR).
Every mother knows about TGMR. It's the rulebook that you make up in your head when your child is born and you realize that there IS no rulebook. When you're pregnant, you devour What to Expect When You're Expecting. You to to birthing classes, take your vitamins, try to include your partner in everything so you don't leave him out, and you anticipate the day when you'll get our body back and your life will go back to normal. Then your Doctor/Nurse/Midwife hands you a slimy little monkey and in a few hours or a couple of days, you are sent home to care for it. That's when you wish for a manual, or an 800 number to call. Maybe you call in a few lifelines -- to your mom, your sister, a neighbor, La Leche, your girlfriends, anyone who will answer -- but most of the time you're on your own to figure out how to take care of this new life you created that is completely dependent on you. This new baby that you love. And you start to think about the TGMR.
Here are a few examples of the rules:
Rule #1 -- A good mommy never lets her baby cry.
Rule #2 -- A good mommy carries her baby in a sling/baby bjorn wherever she goes.
Rule #3 -- A good mommy never uses a pacifier...
Now we're up to Rule #137 -- A good mommy plans and executes all of her child's birthday parties. Yes, that's the one I'm talking about. The one that means I will plan a party, make the goodie bags, send out the invitations, entertain a group of children for 90 minutes, make the most amazing cake every made, and do it all in that one-bedroom apartment mentioned in my other blogs. Oh yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about. As a working mom, I also thought that if I did all of this, my child would be forever grateful and I'd be talked about on the playground -- and I'd get some of those Good Mommy Stickers the kids hand out.
I made a pink pony cake, a race track cake (that was my favorite one -- we also made cars out of copy-paper boxes and the kids raced them up and down the front sidewalk), a Hogwart's cake, a princess castle cake, and under-the-sea cake...and a whole host of others. I found inspiration at the Family Fun Magazine website for cake ideas (www.familyfun.go.com and search for "cake".) And I had a lot of fun planning the parties for my children. Then they started to grow up. Kate decided that she just wanted a couple of friends over for a sleepover party, and could they just have ice cream sundaes? I was devastated. TGMR says I have to make a cake, and there's nothing in there about what to do if your child doesn't want a cake! Luckily for me, I have a second child, and his birthday was coming up. But what was I going to do with all of those kids in my apartment?
It took some mind games, and a very busy month, but I finally gave up TGMR and called up a few bowling alleys and found one in my neighborhood that was perfect. Dash invited almost all the kids in his 5th grade class, and we ended up with 14 friends showing up for pizza and bowling at Lucky Strike on Saturday afternoon. And guess what? It was great! I didn't have to clean up spills, make up games, come up with amazing goody bags (I gave out silly bands -- and if you don't know what they are, ask any child over 6!), and Dash was able to invite boys AND girls to play and hang out. Oh, and the cake? Cupcake Cafe is about two blocks from the bowling alley. I called a couple of days in advance and ordered a cake decorated with a bowling ball and pins. Easy-peasy.
Did I get some Good Mommy Stickers from my son and his friends? You betcha! If I had to go back and do over the years I made cakes and sang silly songs and played games and got to know my children's friends? Not in a million years.