Oh, kid parties. I don't quite know what to say about kid parties. Most parents have an opinion on them. In fact, a couple bloggers I read recently sounded off about them. I remember parties from when I was younger. I had a couple, which were fun, and I remember going to some. Some were awesome, some were possibly a little disappointing if I didn't win any of the games. I had one friend have one at the amusement park in the basement of the Skylon tower in Niagara Falls. When I was a little older, we went to a pool party at a hotel. Another year that same girl did laser tag. I recall a couple of parties at houses, but I don't think parties were nearly as popular back then as they are now. Mine were always at home and they were great, but I recall some awkwardness with having worlds collide--neighbor friends hanging out with friends from school just felt weird. But the extra gifts were worth it, right?
Jacob's at the age now where the parties are starting to roll in. He got invited to one a while back and we couldn't go because we had another (family) party to go to already. That one was at a bounce house place and was one of Jacob's best friends, so I felt bad missing it. Then we got another invite for another one of his daycare buddies...only it's on a day when we already have TWO family parties to attend! That one was going to be at a park-like place with a splash pad. Bummer.
Then a couple days ago, we got another one! This time we can make it, and it's at Chuck E. Cheese. Good news/bad news on that one. Bad news--it's Chuck E. Cheese. Good news--Jacob's been asking to go there, so we'll kill two birds with one stone.
There's nothing wrong with these parties, per se. It's more my issues. It's the usual social anxiety stuff, I guess. I worry about buying an appropriate gift--something the kid will like, something within a target budget. But what should that budget be? Parties involve being social with other parents. That should be a good thing, because we need parent friends, but inevitably I always find it really awkward and end up feeling left out because somehow all the other parents seem to know each other better (probably because they could all make it to the other parties). It's also a little nerve wracking being there to see your kid interact with other kids. There's probably nothing worse than witnessing your kid treating another kid badly, particularly with that kid's parents looking on, too.
Jacob asked a lot to have a party this year, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Maybe that's bad. But here's the thing. Even if it just would have been his best 2-4 best buddies, there would have been a lot to consider. I don't feel like it's worth spending hundreds of dollars on a party that he may not remember, which is what we'd have to do at a place like Chuck E. Cheese or a bounce house place. But not having it at a place with built-in entertainment is a little scary. It involves a lot of planning, coordination, and luck. You have to think of activities, kid-friendly food, and a way to keep the parents comfortable and amused, too. Of course, there's always that issue of whether the parents are supposed to stick around or not, which I think will be more a question in a few years. Anyway, we have the pool for built-in entertainment down the road, but it's a little weird with kids who may not know how to swim. I also wasn't sure about the etiquette for inviting a few kids out of the class, rather than the whole class. Add all those things together, and you've got a good excuse to not have a party. Sorry Jacob. Maybe another year.
I know I just need to get over it, get a few of these parties under my belt, and get used to it, but for now I'm still a little hesitant. It's great that the other parents are willing to take it on, but I guess I'll just be a spectator for a little bit longer and see if planning way ahead might ease my concerns in time for Jacob's 5th birthday. Let's hope!