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Lightsabers R Us

Aug
24
2005

It’s the silly season in our household, also known as son the elder’s birthday. (Don’t worry, son the younger gets a birthday season too, but since he’s new to the talking thing, he makes fewer demands about it.)
As with any enterprise involving children here in the suburbs, this one requires not new clothes (well, sometimes), but rather trips to many stores, each one approximately the size of downtown Copenhagen, but without that city’s superb attention to maintaining toilet paper supplies in all women’s restrooms (even those in the “hippie/druggy” area where you’d think they’d be slacking off). The reason you have to go to many stores is that even though each one is, as I’ve said, approximately the size of downtown Copenhagen, none of them has everything you need, nor even everything in the category it claims to cover.
To get ready for the birthday party, naturally we started out at Parties R Us or Party Hearty or Party City or Parties Are An Overwhelming Financial Burden or something like that.
Luckily, it’s summer. At this time of year we’re just ahead of the Halloween crap-o-rama spread. Just try to bring a preschooler into the store when the skeletons and such are popping out and moaning in full display: He or she runs out screaming. Literally, sometimes. Heading in to a party store in October, you’re liable to get bowled over by a shrieking kid who’ll leave tear stains on your pants on his way out.
The main item on the list for the party store this year is a “Star Wars” piñata. I don’t know why “Star Wars.” The kid’s seen none of the “Star Wars” movies. I haven’t noticed any “Star Wars” references on PBS. (OK, OK, he does see some non-PBS TV—blame the grandparents of course.) Anyway, apparently his knowledge of “Star Wars” comes, like always, from Other People’s Children. (And there’s lots of other “Star Wars” parties out there.)
Rule number one of childrearing: anything smart or cute your kid does, he got it from you; anytime your child misbehaves or annoys you, he picked it up from OPC. Not that “Star Wars” is so bad, just too old for him and an example of the OPC influence kicking in, a sort of preparation for their adolescent roles of becoming what our mothers called “bad influences.”


So the piñata, which features Darth Vader, the bad guy from a series of movies featuring space battles and cool weapons, is naturally a non-violent version. If you haven’t kept up with piñata trends, some piñatas can now be opened by pulling on strings instead of beating them with a stick. Okay, yeah, taking turns pulling a string, woo wee, lots of fun; but with the stick method younger siblings and household pets, not to mention some of the less alert older guests, run too great a risk. It gets tiring to keep pulling them back from the brink and they still can get trampled when the kids make a dash for the candy once the piñata opens. Really, I can’t be expected to take care of everyone – parenting is full of compromises.
Also, this year we had a debate about the jumpy, again thanks to Other People’s Children. Before a plain jumpy was fine, but now son the elder knows that there are jumpies with slides and obstacle courses and basketball nets. It was a tough debate; we’ll call it a draw.
We pick up lots of birthday ideas throughout the year. Aging is the big social event in our crowd. In our brief but intense experience we’ve gone to park parties, home parties, pool parties, movie parties, botanical garden parties, parties with reptiles, parties with jumpies, parties with magicians, with clowns, with clowning magicians, with pirates, with fire trucks, with bubble supervisors, with horses and we haven’t even touched any of the Chuck E. Cheese/gym/etc. experiences yet.
Then there’s the goody bags to figure out. At some parties we’ve walked out with so much loot we look like we’ve been plied with tchotchkes at a toy manufacturers convention. For our bags I try to be “reasonable.”
Last year someone complimented our party as being fun for the kids because it was “homemade.” We’ll ignore any possible back-handedness to the compliment. What he meant is that many parties these days are pre-packaged, themed, professionally organized and far removed from the old treasure-hunt-in-the-backyard days. This is not your mother’s pin the tail on the donkey. So if you happen to make your own ring toss game, by comparison you look like Pioneer Wife Patsy chopping logs to make her own toilet paper. (Which, by the way, you wouldn’t need to do if you lived in Copenhagen.)
Certainly competitive child-rearing is nothing new (how do you think private colleges get away with the prices they charge?), but—just like in the wedding industry (and now there’s another topic for another day)–there’s a growing birthday party industry ready to help push you along in your escalating plans.
Sure, your own kid is modest and undemanding, but it’s those Other People’s Kids who give him ideas. It’s those other moms – I mean kids – who really go overboard. Good thing we’re keeping it simple. I wonder if it’s too late to book the fire-juggling, horse-riding pirate magician.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 12:58 AM | Permalink

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