Harper is turning six this week, which means that I have been running around like a maniac, trying to organize all of her various celebratory gatherings without completely losing my mind. Call me crazy, but when I was a kid, I had ten friends over to our house, we played in the backyard, we ate some pizza, sang Happy Birthday, and then everybody went home, empty-handed. Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite like that every year; I suppose there were a few times when my parents did the McDonald’s birthday party, and once, when I was older, I had a party at a roller skating rink, where we did the Hokey Pokey and the Monster Mash, and slow- skated with the cool boys who knew how to skate backwards. Ah, the good old days.
Somewhere along the way, however, somebody changed the rules, and decided that children’s birthday parties should no longer be simple and easy to organize, but rather, should require the services of a professional party planner, and must be creative and unique, and unlike anything anyone has ever seen before. We’ve been to parties with petting zoos, pony rides, and old-fashioned food carts. We’ve been to “spa” parties where people do the girls’ hair and nails, and give them massages. We’ve been to parties where the kids dress up, learn a dance routine, and stage a fashion show. The new rules also state that every party must include a swag bag similar to what is given to actresses on Oscar night. As such, Harper has been on the receiving end of custom tee-shirts, Swarovsky crystal Hello Kitty necklaces, and High School musical pajamas. And finally, all parties must include every person with whom your child has ever had contact, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings or cause anyone to feel left out. In Harper’s case, this means we had to invite (per school policy) every kindergartner in her class, plus all of her preschool friends from last year, plus everyone in her class at Hebrew school, plus all of her cousins, plus all of my friends’ kids, plus the kids from the neighborhood, which put us at somewhere around 45 six year-olds and 10 or 12 younger siblings who are friends with Davis, not to mention the adults who accompany them.
Over the years, I have tried to resist the over-the-top, urban birthday party thing. I’ve also tried to make her parties as easy for me as possible – the modern equivalent to a McDonald’s party. Last year we had a dance party where she took ballet class, and all I had to do was show up with some tablecloths, plates and a cake. The year before, it was a similar thing at a kid’s gym. But this year, Harper announced that she was tired of having her parties at places like that. This year she wanted, and I quote, a “home made” birthday party. What does that mean? I asked her. It means, she said, that I want you to do it all yourself. I swear, it’s like they can smell it when we’re being lazy.
After several discussions and vetoes on my part (no, Harper, we can not have a circus party with trampolines and highwires where Daddy and I dress up like clowns), we settled on the idea of a scavenger hunt at a local park. I negotiated her down from home made macaroni and cheese and a cake I bake myself, to pizza and a cake that I buy from a cake store. We agreed that each kid would paint a “treasure box” at the party, in which they could store their scavenger hunt finds, and that would also double as the goodie bag. And she agreed to let me hire a professional who could help me wrangle the kids and play some games with them, because I explained to her that Mommy’s head would explode if I had to take all of her friends on a scavenger hunt by myself, and I didn’t think she would want blood and brain matter scattered all over the grass at her birthday party.
It sounded simple enough. But all I have to say about that is, ‘hah.’ It turns out that planning Harper’s scavenger hunt party was a scavenger hunt in and of itself, and it took me over a week to find everything on my list. In the interest of not reinventing the wheel, I will share the fruits of my labor with you here, in case you are dumb enough to want to try this yourself.
Item #1: I needed a plan for a scavenger hunt. I have no freakin’ idea how to plan a scavenger hunt, so I spent half a day scouring the internet for examples, until I finally found something of use at www.scavengerhuntsforkids.com .
Item #2: Plain, wooden boxes that don’t cost a fortune. This required travel to three different stores and two evenings online, but I finally found them at www.orientaltradingcompany.com .
Item #3: Paint, paintbrushes, paint containers, glue and glitter to decorate the boxes. This one wasn’t so hard – I went straight to www.lakeshorelearning.com , which had everything I needed.
Item #4: Large plastic bags to put the scavenger hunt items in, plus some little goodies that I was going to hide, like gold chocolate coins, glow sticks, and tiny containers of this gooey, green stuff called glitter putty, which, I learned, looks a lot like snot when it is all smeared all over a three year-old’s face. I got these at
The party was on Saturday, and all went smoothly. It was a beautiful day, the kids loved making the boxes, the scavenger hunt was a hit, and the kid-wrangler helped me to keep my brain inside of my head. But planning a home made birthday party totally sucked, and I informed Harper as nicely as I could that I am never doing that again. Next year, I told her, we should look into bowling.