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Friday, October 14, 2011

Things They Can't Say: Vinobaby's Voice

A wine glass in one hand and a soccer ball under the other arm: oh yes, I can relate to this week's featured blogger! Meet Kerry Ann from Vinobaby's Voice. 

I am scared to death of kids' birthday parties. Attending them is bad enough. I cringe thinking about having to smile and make small talk with strangers while trapped by dozens of screaming munchkins in Chuck E. Cheese or bounce house world purgatory.

But what is worse is having to host one.

I am the embodiment of the anti-Martha Stewart;  I was born missing the gene essential for throwing  parties. Whether it is a specific link of hostess DNA, lack of social savvy, or maybe I just have a low threshold for tolerating dozens of children running around with pinata sticks while on a sugar high — the thought of planning and executing my own Kiddo's birthday party nearly gives me a panic attack.

This year I had an easy out. Legoland, my son's wildest fantasy come true, opens a week after his birthday.  Yes, I will gladly drive an hour and a half each way, cough up the cash for the three of us to go get in, and be a part of the opening weekend madness instead of hosing a party. No question.

So why am I so terrified of throwing my own kid's birthday party?

My mom gave me a birthday party each year until I was about eight or nine — but they were little shin-digs, a bunch of neighborhood buddies kicking it up in our backyard sandbox or pool.  Parents dropped off kids back then.  A homemade cake and ice cream, a jug of apple juice, maybe a bag of chips and the buffet was complete. We were thrilled to get special plates and cake in the middle of the afternoon. We were basically caged in the back yard running wild, playing Marco Polo in the pool with maybe a game of pin the tail on the donkey or penny drop. And we had a blast.

Now birthday parties are a competitive sport. And I have always sucked at sports.

You have to rent bounce houses or water slides or ultimate video game buses. Princess and pirates are hired to stroll through the party, painting faces and handing toddlers swords or tiaras. Photographers snap the scenes for photo books and immediate broadcast across the social media streams (and if it is REALLY good, it may even end up on Pinterest).  Dress codes are often mandatory; come in your fairy gown or as your favorite superhero or you may as well not come at all (so parents have to buy costumes or risk being the object of ridicule).

Parents must stay the entire time for social hour, gossiping and grazing on the lavish buffet offered to impress them while their kids complain about the food (because they are all picky eaters now, right?).

I just can't get into this scene.

First off, I am far to cheap frugal (shh, it's in style now). I cannot afford to host one of these fancy-schmancy fetes. I bake the birthday cake each year — yes, I try to decorate it in a way which will make Kiddo swoon, but it's hardly a professionally decorated masterpiece. My cakes are lopsided, from a box, but full of (hours worth of) love.

And in real life, I am really kind of shy.  What if I threw a party and no one came?  That is one of my biggest fears. Am I passing it down to my child?  Remarkably, he did not inherit any of my shyness. He is friendly, popular, and seems to be a pretty cool kid. But what if the other kid's parents knew I was a terrible hostess and no one showed up? I couldn't bear to see my Kiddo's little heart break.

I  gave in and threw him a big party for his 5th birthday.  I rented a pavilion at a local park, bought a ginormous Costco cake and a pinata, and carefully ordered proper goodie bag treats. I invited tons of his friends from playgroup and preschool.

I was in over my head.

The festivities almost ended in the E.R. before the party began. The "Daddies" decided it would be fun to race down the massively steep hill in our wagon and ran over the Birthday Boy. He was okay, and my Mom was able preserve me screaming at the Big Boys on video for posterity. Then the kids didn't want to do any of the games I so painstakingly planned and a couple of them went at the pinata a little to over-zealously and we had tears and ice packs.

A mom I had never met before saved my behind by helping cut and dish out the cake to the hungry monstersmasses.  Rarely had I ever felt so out of my element. There is a reason I am not a party planner or a teacher: hoards of hyper kids absolutely terrify me.

Kiddo had a great time. But I will never do it again.

Does that make me a bad parent?It's just a small family get together for us this year and hopefully an amazing day at Legoland.

Maybe next year we can do a slumber party for a friend or two. I can handle that, right?

Please leave Kerry Ann some comment love here and then go follow Vinobaby's Voice. You can also find her on twitter @VinoBaby1 and on facebook.

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Blogger Missy said...

I went cuckoo nuts for my oldest's first few parties. Then I saw the light and stopped doing them. Now we do something really small for almost all parties for both kids. Except I did tell them they could have a friend party at 5 and 10. And guess what? My oldest turns 10 this year and my youngest turns 5. That's 2 in one year. Shudder. Heading over to follow you now!

October 14, 2011 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger The Blonde Duck said...

One of the main reasons I want to have kids is to plan their parties!

October 14, 2011 at 7:59 AM  
Anonymous Galit Breen said...

Ah yes, this. Daunting! Love seeing you here, girl!

October 14, 2011 at 8:02 AM  
Blogger Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

We don't do birthday parties. The cost is just not in our budget. One year I tried to invite over 3 friends for a play date/birthday party and that was during the year that crazy flu hit and all 3 kids were sick. That was enough for me. Now we just have a cake and invite over close family. Although I do take cupcakes to school - the homemade, lopsided kind of course ;-)

October 14, 2011 at 8:08 AM  
Blogger The Woven Moments said...

I can so relate to this. And birthdays really ARE a competitive sport these days.

This weekend we are celebrating my daughter's birthday by going to a log cabin, in the woods, on a lake.

Serenity now! :)

October 14, 2011 at 8:22 AM  
Blogger Suniverse said...

We have had major parties for the girl every year for 14 years. And the ONLY reason I do it is because I'm comfortable hosting parties. Otherwise? No way would I bring that on myself. If you don't want to do it, don't. You can make plans to have a family event [like Legoland] each year and that completely negates the need for a party.

October 14, 2011 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger StylinMom said...

so funny...however I can't relate...I can't wait to p;an D's 1st b-day party!!!

October 14, 2011 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Singedwingangel said...

I loathe kids parties. Like you I panic with groups of kids that I am responsible for their safety and clean up..

October 14, 2011 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Jackie said...

I thought I'd be one of the lone ducks confessing my love of party planning, but it appears am I not alone. I attribute that though to two things: my mother & my years as a K&1 teacher.
I think a trip to Legoland sounds like a rather kick ass party.

October 14, 2011 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I've done the big parties, but people here don't really come to birthday parties. It is so weird. I don't think my daughter got invited to any last year. I've over it. Thankfully she is now old enough for a sleepover and that is what we are doing this year.

October 14, 2011 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Evonne said...

Chuck E. Cheese just makes me cringe!

I try to have parties for my daughter at places who give you a party planner. Sometimes they even supply a cake. All we have to do is show up and be social. My son's birthday is in the summer. Since I don't know all of his friends yet, I'm using that as an excuse to stick with family parties for him.

October 14, 2011 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Di said...

Do parties where you don't have to plan or do the work - gymnastics places, monkey joes, skating rink, bowling, laser tag, etc - I learned well from my sister and her four kids and will keep it going with mine!

October 14, 2011 at 9:28 AM  
Blogger Cindi said...

We did big parties until the kids were around 10. It was the 'popular' thing to do. Not only is it expensive and chaotic, we found the kids liked the special dinners prepared just for them and the CASH a lot more than the expensive parties. (LoL)

October 14, 2011 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger John said...

I read "I was missing the gene that allowed me to throw panties" and that just skewed this post, entirely, for me :-p

Right now, I'm enjoying parties for the kids - because we're doing pot-luck stuff. The kids (both my own and those who might be coming) aren't going to remember anything, anyway, so we rent out a place (so as to avoid having to clean the house) and have everyone bring a dish. It's cheap & everybody gets to talk.

When we start having to actually entertain the kids, though? I'm terrified.

I do think I'm going to supply the kids with goodie bags at the end, with goodie-flasks for the parents who stay up front.

Either that, or I'm just going to find places that do all of the planning.

October 14, 2011 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Victoria KP said...

You SO get an AMEN from me. Both my boys birthdays are in the middle of summer and even if I manage to get invitations out before the school year, it gets completely forgotten and I end up with disappointed kids. I often run into moms who sheepishly tell me in September, "I just found that invitation in Junior's backpack." Next year, I'm DEFINITELY taking them to an amusement park!

October 14, 2011 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Kmama said...

This yaer I planned a small party with a few friends and their siblings for my oldest's birthday party. Since it was in August, I planned games including water balloons and gave everyone squirt guns in their goodie bags. There were more tears and injuries over those stupid water balloons and squirt guns. My hubby even called me "The worst party planner ever." Yeah. It was THAT good.

October 14, 2011 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger Alison@Mama Wants This said...

I am terrified of children's parties (I even wrote a post about it months ago). Hence, the toddler did not get a 1st birthday party, nor is he getting one this year.

Yup, I suck.

October 14, 2011 at 10:12 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

This is so funny, I'm not big on kids parties either, we always keep ours small and I try to keep them low key but that doesn't always happen. Can't believe they ran over the birthday boy.

October 14, 2011 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger RoryBore said...

So glad someone has spoken up! Don't get me wrong, since I don't have a shy bone in my body, I don't mind attending the parties, and I am creative enough that I managed to pull off quite a good Star Wars theme party for my own boy.....but I just cannot get into the over-the-top, bust the budget shin-digs.
I did do quite a bit or work on the party planning....but my ultimate goal was to keep nine 6-8 year old boys busy that day. as opposed to myself. As for other parents: drop and run. go have some fun for a few hours.

October 14, 2011 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I love birthday's, planning and throwing. It never comes out as perfect as I think it will in my head, but my 2 year old doesn't care.

October 14, 2011 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger Lourie said...

There is a reason why we only do friend parties for "milestone" birthdays. I am not a party thrower. For this very reason. She has described me. hahaha. Perfectly. I think we need a support group.

October 14, 2011 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Tayarra said...

I'm with you, that's not my scene! For our summer boy we rent a bounce house and fill water guns and balloons. I'm holding on to that plan as long as possible. Sometimes we do hot dogs and burgers. Sometimes just cake. So far it has been family. I'm not into awkward which is what having a bunch of friends and their parents create in my opinion. I try not to stress and make it simple but even that can be stressful. I think your bday idea this year is great and something he is sure to remember.

October 14, 2011 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Emmy said...

I grew up having a party every year and loved it.. but now, I really am totally fine if we just do a family thing and as am going to try and get away with it as long as I can. I do like crafting and creating- but it totally is just over the top and seems like too much.
And then if you want to invite kids from school- you either have to somehow invite them not during school hours or have to invite the entire class- I am not about to invite 23 first graders over!

October 14, 2011 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Kir said...

parties today are different, and like you I just hate competing with other moms and dads..it's exhausting! I have TWINS for god's sake...I don't need more stress about their birthday parties.

I think we should go back to your 5 best friends and sleep overs, scary movies and CAKE. ;)

If you can make that happen, I'm so on board. :)

October 14, 2011 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Wow. Do I ever relate to this. I have to start following VinoBaby's blog. Wine and soccer balls - check. But more than that - I HATE children's birthday parties. With a passion. They are my cage full of rats, a la 1984.

October 14, 2011 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

A. I think we went to each other's birthday parties without knowing it.

B. Hooray, Legoland!

C. You used the word "fete" so you are the perfect amount of fancy for me.

Loved the post. Agreed with every word.

Cheers to frugal (whether or not it's in fashion.)

October 14, 2011 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Desperate Housemommy said...

So fun to see you here, Kerry! I am SO with you on this issue. Now...I do parties...but I keep it real. For three years running, My Twin B has had a back yard campout with a dozen of his closest buddies. They play night games, make s'mores and Jiffypop popcorn, and they sleep out back in tents. Best part? My groom and a few other dad friends sleep out with them while I have a glass (or three) of wine.

October 14, 2011 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I have a love/hate relationship with birthday parties. I love looking for ideas and planning out themes but I don't like actually doing any of it or having people over. I like a small party where we focus on what we are supposed to be celebrating in the first place but somehow parties always turn into a circus.
So great to hear Kerry's take and I can't believe they ran over your son!

October 14, 2011 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger JDaniel4's Mom said...

We have had to parties at our house and one at the zoo. We are having one not a home this year.

October 14, 2011 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Ha, my birthday parties are nothing like the elaborate ones you describe. I am a slacker mom. My kids don't play soccer or t-ball either. Slacker mom.
I am going to have to check out your blog. You sound hilarious!

October 14, 2011 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger Christa aka The BabbyMama said...

I am working my way up to the big deal birthdays. So far, the two birthday parties we've had have been for the parents (ages 1 and then 2 so the kids don't seem to care) to socialize. And I'm lucky because I know a lot of people who know each other!

October 14, 2011 at 2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



October 14, 2011 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger Rach (DonutsMama) said...

I just cannot handle the fancy receptions, uh parties, that parents are supposed to throw their kids these days. I'm already stressing about my kid's 1st bday party. I'm not a planner and I have no decorating/theme skills. Whatever happened to pizza and movies??

October 14, 2011 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I love to party plan and really get into it. I think if its not for you--its not for you. Although--Im pretty jealous that your kid gets to have a kick ass party at Legoland. We have nothing like that around here so parties at our house is what I find easiest.

October 14, 2011 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger I'm Jennifer. said...

I'm guilty of throwing some spendy, over-the-top parties. I did it for a few years when my kids were in preschool. But no more. I much more prefer these "older kid" parties, where you take a handful of friends to the bowling alley or movie theater.

October 14, 2011 at 6:16 PM  
Blogger Just Jennifer said...

You are inside my head! I hate throwing my kids' parties yet I feel obligated to cuz all my mom friends do for their kids. My birthday party anxiety stems from a bust of a Sweet 16 I helped throw for my BFF back in high school. The parties I throw for my kids have all gone well, but I still don't like it. Oh, and mine aren't lavish. I've never rented a bouncy house!

October 14, 2011 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger Grumpy Grateful Mom said...

Great post! I'm glad you made it through without an ER visit.

My last party had an injury. Just as the mom's were picking the kids up, a girl got knocked in the mouth and started screaming and oozing blood. It turned out her already loose tooth just got knocked, but it took a good five minutes of crying to figure that out!

I think we'll skip the big parties this year. :)

October 14, 2011 at 7:55 PM  
Blogger blueviolet said...

I agree. I don't know why everything has to be so extravagant. Every move from one school to another is all the sudden worthy of a party akin to graduating high school. They just don't need all that brouhaha!

October 14, 2011 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger Deputy's Wife said...

My daughter's 8th birthday party is on Sunday...It's a horse themed party, so she'll have it at the barn where she takes riding lessons. Sound good, right?

I. HATE. BIRTHDAY. PARTIES. There won't be any treat bags because holy crap, the party is expensive enough! Cake and drink is all that I'm doing. Who cares.

October 14, 2011 at 8:55 PM  
Blogger KSK said...

LOL! My sister-in-law had a HUGE party for her son's 1st birthday... She rented out a hall, it was so crowded, I didn't even get to see my only nephew open his gifts, or eat his cake.. She recently called me and told me I 'did it right' with only inviting immediate family.
People just go so crazy..

October 14, 2011 at 9:18 PM  
Blogger The Preppy Girl in Pink said...

I loved my parties in the backyard with close friends when I was little. Now you have to host it at some place that costs as much as your first year at college and make these party favor BAGS or you are not doing enough.I'm over it! My girls never even play with the stuff in most goodie bags. Save that money for something that really matters...not yoyos, pencils and tattoos. Lets go back to the simpler times where parties were fun!
Love this post!!!

October 14, 2011 at 11:47 PM  
Blogger Lady Jennie said...

You have to pass the buck to someone else - one of those party organizers that do it from start to finish. Life is too short to spend several days in complete and utter panic. :-)

October 15, 2011 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger Elaine A. said...

I love that I read this after having a party recently for my 2-year old that some may have considered a bit Over-the-top. But it really did end up being a pretty stress-free party.

What I love most though, is that we as parents, can decide what and how we want to celebrate our kids birthdays and no way is wrong.

I hope your little guy has a great celebration at LegoLand, it's a very fun place!!


October 15, 2011 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger Oka said...

Here, birthday parties are always about the hottest spot...game zone, lazer tag, bounce place,you name it.

Not even remotely in our budget, not a single one of them.

GW's birthday is on the 27th. I am hosting a party at a local park (Pavilion was free). It's a pumpkin carving party and I made it bring your own pumpkin. We will grill hot dogs, and the boys can play football or soccer after.

Doesn't sound like much right? Well, every parent and child is excited and ecstatic it's not at another one of those places. Never knew I was capable of pleasing so may people by getting back to the basics.

October 15, 2011 at 7:41 PM  
Blogger Kristy said...

Ah, I love Vinobaby! I am always anxious or full of anxious energy during my son's birthday party. They are exhausting.

October 16, 2011 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I only do a big party for the first birthday. After that it's small get togethers with family or we go on a special day trip with just us. It's way easier.

October 17, 2011 at 2:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just finished my daughter's second b-day party this weekend at a local farm/pumpkin patch. Windstorm upset the "decor" and almost even putting food on the table, V cried during her cake cutting, the farm started charging our guests admission (though our rental agreement was otherwise), I forgot forks for the cake, and V stabbed herself in the eye with a reed in the pumpkin patch. Still the day and company were lovely, V had a good time with friends, and our guests seemed to enjoy as well. I certainly had my plans for the "ideal" humbled a bit, and this is the last year for a big to do for a while, but lessons were learned and fun was had:) I was thinking of your post throughout, though!

October 17, 2011 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger crazedmama said...

Lol, I just did my first official birthday party last weekend. Well, I've done bday parties before but it was just with close family. All 3 of our kids' birthdays are within 4 days of each other, and there is no way we could do 3 individual parties! I let each kid invite 5 of their friends. Only 4 extra kids showed up. 3 of the moms just dropped their kid off and left without even knowing my name or anything. One mom stayed the entire time.. which was awkward because I'm shy anyway, lol. I had planned some small carnival type games, then bought a bunch of little crap at the dollar tree as prizes. Had balloons, and cake, and ice cream. The kids had fun, and there were no mishaps. I dont know if I will do it next year though! I was exhausted by the end of it!

October 17, 2011 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Charlotte said...

Yikes. Is that seriously what kid's birthday parties are like nowadays? Man, take me back to the days of slip-and-slide (and hopefully not end up cut up on loose rocks) and running around like wild monkeys. Those were the days.

A birthday party like the one you described would scare the lights out of anyone.

October 17, 2011 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger Charlotte said...

Yikes. Is that seriously what kid's birthday parties are like nowadays? Man, take me back to the days of slip-and-slide (and hopefully not end up cut up on loose rocks) and running around like wild monkeys. Those were the days.

A birthday party like the one you described would scare the lights out of anyone.

October 17, 2011 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger MommaKiss said...

Because of everything you listed, we hadn't done a big party until my kid turned 6. At that point, he was in kindy - and invited his whole class. We had the party at a mini golf place, outside. It was drop off, so I didn't have to socialize, but I did have to corral 21 5 and 6 year olds! Thank God it was only 2 hours.

And my lil one? 4? in daycare, his 'friends' invite us to these parties all the time - for lil ones!! i pass. politely ;)

October 17, 2011 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

Slumber parties are fun too! I love parties but it is so much work and money!

October 18, 2011 at 9:29 AM  
Anonymous A Mother's Thoughts said...

I am the exact same Shell!!! My little guys first birthday is coming up next week and I cringe!!! I have to have something, but in all honesty, these get togethers in with family can be a tad overwhelming. We live a quite little life, and then I feel like a brithday party is like throwing your family into a herd of wolves......wish me luck! :)


October 19, 2011 at 7:11 PM  
Anonymous erika said...

This is exactly what I'm talking about. This stress you feel is so real and so pervasive! I'm donating my time to help parents throw parties that are about shifting this expectation....I threw 4 backyard birthday parties for my daughter until she got so sad that she didn't have "cool" parties like all her friends did.....we should have more variety in parties so kids don't have one type of expectation - and they are more open to different types of parties!

October 20, 2011 at 7:29 PM  

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