Expecting the unexpected

BECAUSE I’M MARRIED TO A SERIOUS SPORTS FAN, I’m accustomed to checking sports schedules before I schedule anything for the family. I dutifully verified that gametime for the Steelers / Ravens NFL playoff game was 4:30 pm on Saturday before I booked Peezer’s birthday party for an earlier time slot the same day.

(The fact that I even thought to do this is something Curt takes for granted. Not all wives would. He has trained me well.)

And I was feeling like a Very Good Wife, until Curt’s friend offered him four face-value tickets to see the game IN PITTSBURGH. Curt, bless him, hesitated, on account of it being the same day as Peezer’s birthday party. But here’s the thing with the Steelers and their rabid fans. Face-value tickets don’t come along that often. And here was a chance for Curt to impress the socks right off of Seth and The Boss. Oh, sure, they’ve been to regular-season NFL games and to Big Ten football at Penn State. But the playoffs? Our favorite team?

So it was in the spirit of teamwork that I offered to “take one for the team” and agreed to host the birthday party solo while Curt took Peezer’s older brothers to Mecca Heinz Field.

Now, we haven’t hosted a birthday party outside of our home in all the years we’ve been parents. But this year, I finally decided there was a certain wisdom in throwing money at this particular issue. I booked the party and decided to let someone else clean up the mess.

And I didn’t necessarily think it would be a big deal. A few kids, some cake – how hard could it be? Last year, I invited his entire class to our home for his party. Out of 22 some invitations, we had only seven RSVPs, and of those, six kids attended. It was a manageable size for a group of five year olds, but I was dismayed by the lack of responses.

Fully expecting the same thing this year, I encouraged Eli to invite lots of kids, so as to hedge our bets. We mailed 23 invitations. Imagine how surprised we were when every single guest replied and only one said they could not attend!

Me + 23 kindergarteners + a frenzied party venue, teeming with hyperactive children? When I confirmed the party details, I asked if I could tack on a box of wine for an additional charge. Alas, it would be up to me to get through the party without crutches.

The kids had a blast bouncing on the inflatables. Plus, sensing my desperation, more than a few parents stuck around, so I had extra arms to assist me with my hosting duties.

Something else extra that I hadn’t counted on, though? Extra party guests! Three parents brought extra siblings. One let me know ahead of time. Two didn’t. And I might not even have noticed except that (for fear of losing someone) I put name tags on all the kids. Then I noticed one I didn’t recognize. “Who’s that?” I asked a nearby parent.

“Oh,” she said, smiling, “That’s Emily.”

Thinking I’d totally missed something, I asked, “Who’s Emily? We didn’t invite an Emily…”

“Oh, no, that’s Mary’s sister,” she said. “I brought her along.” So, I informed her – and the other two parents – that there was a maximum number of jumpers allowed on the inflatables, and that with all our invited guests, we had exactly that many, so if the referees decided to enforce the limit, I’d have to ask their extra child to get off the inflatables.

And you’d think that would have been enough of a hint, but you would be wrong. As we transitioned to the party room for refreshments, all three of the extra kids all bellied up to the table, and we ran out of chairs and chips and cups, because there were exactly enough place settings for the invited guests. The “referees” were cool about it- they brought in extras of everything. And charged me, naturally.

And you would think THAT would have been hint enough, too, but again, you’d be wrong, because two of the three extra guests actually held out their hands for the goodie-bag giveaway at the end of the party! Luckily, I had exactly two extras, because what kind of ogre says to a doe-eyed three year old, sorry, Susie, no candy for you!?

Despite those minor curveballs, it was a fun party – Peezer loved every minute of it. We toted his gifts home and opened them and this week we will be mass-producing thank you notes. Mostly, though, I was touched that this room full of kids was there to celebrate my kid’s birthday. It was loud, chaotic, and crazy – but it was a big ole’ party, and Peezer was thrilled.

I may have scored bonus points for “letting” Curt take the boys to the football game, but I like to think I scored far more meaningful points with my youngest son.

Blow out the candle 


8 thoughts on “Expecting the unexpected

  1. Awwww beautiful post…AND a major lesson for me too! I have never ever hosted a birthday party for any of my kids outside of my own home. I’m thinking of doing it for Gaby, next year for her 6th. And believe me when I tell you that I’m printing this post out and making a note to re-read it, on my calendar.

  2. You are such a good Mom…and an even better wife. Tell Curt I said so…whack, I am sure he KNOWS.
    You deserve a medal or something equally wonderful. To those parents who brought extra kids and acted that way…SHAME ON YOU!!!
    I am so sorry you had to deal with that.

  3. Great job hosting the party on your own, Meg! It is always a special thing to get to focus on just one child for a time, they really do appreciate it. And I’m sure Curt & the other boys enjoyed that exciting game yesterday, and now they can tell everyone how they got to see the Steelers on their way to another Super Bowl title!
    BTW — bringing extra siblings without asking in advance? That is some rude cheekiness if you ask me. Birthday parties at those places don’t run cheap, I know. You are a saint & generous person for not calling them out on it.
    For our 6-year old’s past birthday parties — we figure he gets so many toys & games already from us & grandparents & uncles/aunts, that he really doesn’t need more from his friends. Instead we do a book exchange, with no presents or goodie bags for anyone to worry about. It works out great for him since he is an avid reader, and we hope it encourages more reading for the other kids too. And the secret best part: we don’t have to cart home even more toys & games. :-)

  4. Bossy can not even READ about kid birthday parties without needing a shot of vodka and a large bed with seven empty hours for sleeping all that Crazy off. Good for you!

  5. I think it’s neat that in one weekend (actually, same day!) you and Curt managed a significant memory-making activity with all of your kids, in two different states! You guys are pretty talented. Well done.

  6. I envied your creativity and enthusiasm, you are a great mom. I have a two year old son who is going to celebrate his 3rd birthday this February and I don’t like him to receive toys for his birthday, I would love it to be more memorable like the one you had.. I will think of much nicer ideas for my only son’s birthday, thanks to you..

  7. Wow. How someone could add that stress to you — and take the seat and goodies of an INVITED CHILD — is beyond imagination. Good on you for handling it and giving Peezer such a special day!

  8. What a wonderful post, and I am so sorry that I got to it so far after it happened. Meg, you did a great job, and boo to those ‘rents who showed up with extra gene pool products. Geez! Well you handled it with aplomb, and in the meantime , Curt and Seth and Ross made some memories of their own.

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