This may sound odd coming from someone with the moniker “The Party Pony,” but I find many children’s parties loathsome little affairs. The ones that remain reasonably small are acceptable, I suppose, although the spectacle of a passel of two-year-olds eyeing one another balefully over cake—each wondering who the hell the other is, since they aren’t really what would be called in normal society “friends”—is one that could easily be missed by anyone who is not a doting parent. I guess I have a doting and treacly streak somewhere in my rotten soul, since I happen to be having a party this weekend for my son who is turning four. I promise to avoid every feature of the tale that follows.
The prize for the Worst Children’s Party Ever has already been awarded in perpetuity to one particularly horrifying event that is seared on my memory, although this past weekend I had occasion to spy on another party, which I have named the Baby Slagmounts Fashion Show, and decided it might qualify. But first, the Worst Children’s Party Ever.
We were invited not because our child was even friends with the child—a girl who was turning four—but because it was one of those parties where the parents feel obligated to invite the entire class. Indeed, they also felt obligated to invite all their other little friends, too, because there were about 40 kids there in total. Have you ever been in a room with 40 kids?
The party was at a place called FUN CRAFT, in Scarsdale, and it started out in a reasonable way. All the kids got to choose and paint one ugly little ceramic piece each. This was okay, but the staff quickly informed us that the paint was indelible and “would not wash out of clothing, no matter what!” Not only that, the ugly ceramic items were breakable. The three-year-olds painted away while their diamond-festooned moms (in white sweaters) lurched away from their grasping little hands.
I might note that these were a bunch of what my friend DK calls MILRO, or Moms I’d Like to Run Over, from the town of Pelham. They chatted amongst themselves about tennis or how rotten their nannies were and completely ignored me and my husband. The birthday mom, a scrawny excrescence with sallow skin, barely gave us a lukewarm smile. Another woman literally turned her back on me while I was introducing myself. Their unfriendliness seemed almost exotic. Were they from another country with very unusual cultural rules and obligations? Perhaps I should have tried spitting at them, rather than shaking hands? A stranger in a strange land, I began to observe them as one might a simian gathering in a zoo enclosure.
Anyway, after the kids had coated their ugly little items, destined for landfills everywhere, with goopy paint, the decent part of the party was over. The staff whisked away the painted items and then told us to move “to the back room.”
These were fateful words, for this is where it got ugly. All 40 children and their keepers were herded into the back room and the lights were shut down. I thought I sensed the bovine panic of children who knew they were about to be branded and scarred for life. They milled about, and some tried to back up and escape, but the door had already slammed shut behind us! I smelled the stink of fear. A disco ball flared into life and the song “Jump! Jump around! Jump around!” burst out at top volume. Then, the strobe light began. Several children began wailing, and the maniacal “staff” at the place shouted at them through the microphone to “dance, dance, dance!” My children clung to my legs in abject terror.
The children were then herded through a limbo line and made to shake a parachute into the air, while other children were supposed to run and hide underneath. All the while, the schizophreniacal strobe light pulsed and the music shrieked. My two boys eventually found their way to a corner bench, fixed sad, dour expressions on their faces, and gnawed on cupcakes, refusing to participate in any of the awful hijinks. Both my husband and I had frightful hangovers, and I almost collapsed in fear and weeping.
Finally, however, the strobe shut off and the music stopped. Some of the kids looked pale and shell-shocked. The staff came out and attached a big piñata to the ceiling and gave the kids each a chance to take a whack with a big stick. After about three tries, down it came, and the children clambered over one another to get at the candy. The room was so small and stifling that the floor seemed thigh-deep with children, with nowhere to move or escape. They filled their paper bags greedily, climbing through the tangle of limbs to get at a tootsie roll or jolly rancher. The MILROs clapped appreciatively as if this was in some way cute or charming, and their vacant financier husbands looked proud and manly.
All the while, my two boys sat on their bench like stones and watched the affair with doleful faces. When we finally got up to escape the terrible place, my older son suddenly realized that he’d missed out on something.
“But wait, Daddy! I didn’t get any candy!”
“No, you didn’t,” said my husband. “But, you still have your dignity.”
Next Up: The Baby Slagmounts Fashion Show!