I get it. I do. You just want to treat this birthday party like school or day care: drop the kid off and get a 2 hour break. Even if you are only dropping off one of your kids, it’s at least a reduction in little people who are constantly calling you, asking you questions, and spilling milk on the floor/wall/your clothes. We get very precious little opportunity to have a break, especially when we are stay at home parents. So the temptation to go on cruise control and let another parent take the wheel for a couple hours is all too easy to say ‘yes’ to.
But please, even though it’s so easy to do nowadays–don’t miss the kid parties.
Don’t just drop them off and run. Let your guard down and walk in with them. Allow their giddy piss-their-pants excitement transfer to you, let it drum up those memories from your childhood of parties with friends. Those memories of hot dogs and soda and cake and pinatas. Of running around our parents’ legs with our friends. Of it being the BEST DAY EVER because we were seeing our friends outside of school and got to stuff our faces with candy and our parents didn’t mind because they were having a good time too, talking with their friends.
I know it’s loud because kids equate fun times with screaming. But stay anyways. Because your kids want you to. We can’t cruise control during this precious time when our kids actually want to be around us and want us to meet their friends and want us to be a part of their lives. Because all too soon they will be teenagers who will shut us out and not want us anywhere near their friends because we will suddenly be embarrassing. Then we’ll realize that our time is running short and oh shit we better pay attention because what if our kids are getting into trouble with these other kids that we don’t really know and suddenly look super sketchy and are certainly going to lead our kids to drugs and prison.
Instead, you could just pay attention now.
I know that Susan’s kid is a whiny, disrespectful little shittake mushroom who always cries when she can’t blow out the candle because it’s NOT HER BIRTHDAY and who tries to open the presents even though it is NOT HER BIRTHDAY, and they drive you crazy. But if you stayed at the party, it would give you the chance to realize how awesome your kid is in comparison to Susan’s shitstorm of a kid. You would see your kid be kind to the quiet, shy kid. You would see your kid grab pinata candy for their little sister who was getting blocked out by the big kids. You would see your kid being polite to the hosting parents when all the other kids were acting like over caffeinated monkeys locked in a cell with one banana. And you would get to have a proud parent moment that you so desperately need, affirming that your sleep deprived work is not in vain.
You wouldn’t have to hear all the stories about the party afterwards, because you would be living all the exciting moments right next to them. You would be there when they won the first game and made their first dent in a pinata ever. You would be there to help guard their candy stash from the thieving kid who keeps “forgetting” which bag is his (and also to steal some, because that’s the right of the parent). You would turn your kid’s memories from, “Then I did the most awesomest jump in the bouncy house” to “Mom, remember when Dad and I did the most awesomest jump that made the bouncy house fall over?!” It would be a memory of you showing up instead of dropping and running.
And equally important–you would get to know the other parents. The ones who are sitting in the trenches with you. The ones who know exactly what you are going through: the beauty and frustrations, the glory and the mess, the bliss and the lack of sleep–all of it–because they are going through it too. You would get to build up your community, your tribe. You would find your people.
We so desperately need each other, because parenting is too big a job for us to do on our own. It certainly takes a village. But you won’t find your village if you won’t stay to meet them.
So I know that you could get your errands done kid free (or kid reduced, at least). Or get the oil changed. Or clean your house. Or whatever, because the to-do list is never ending.
But that’s just it–the to-do list never ends. But your kid’s golden years of childhood–when they actually want to spend time with you and tell you everything and be involved in every part of their lives–does end.
If you miss it, you’ll never get it back.
So please, don’t miss the kid parties. Their day will come to an end, and our kids will be teenagers going to parties on their own and we will be up anxiously waiting for them to come home, wondering all the while what they’re doing.
Be there for them now. And meet some people who can become your friends so you aren’t up waiting until midnight on your own down the road.