March 29, 2008

Birthday Party Fret [Edited with Follow-up]

Ever since I saw the invitation, I've been dreading the birthday party I had to take William to today. It's at one of those Ark E. Ade places where you have to follow your child around urging him to be sensible with his limited tokens, and then watching as he finds out that all he can buy with his 100 tickets is 5 Tootsie Rolls, and that all the other prizes on display are DENIED.

When we arrived, the mom of the birthday child (I'm assuming it was the mom: she seemed to be in charge, so I introduced myself, but she didn't say who she was) said I could leave him. I said I could stay, and she said no, she had helpers, and she pointed to a group of nice- and responsible-looking teenaged girls. She really seemed to hope I would go, and a little impatient with me for hesitating---as if I were some sort of overprotective weirdo. So I asked William if that was okay with him, and he said yes, and I left.

I should be delighted: I don't have to stand around watching him waste tokens on gambling games set up to disappoint children! I don't have to try to figure out who everyone is, as I keep introducing myself and people keep saying, "Oh, hi!" in a friendly way but not volunteering their own names! I don't have to stand there as all the other mothers turn down cake with a little laugh, and then feel like they're all thinking, "That explains the size of her BUTT" as I accept a plate---when actually they're probably thinking, "Aw, dammit, I wish they'd asked her first so I could have said yes too!" I should be really glad to be home doing whatever I want while the three youngest all take naps and Paul plays Risk with Rob.

Instead I am a big mess of nerves. William is a first-grader, and I have left him in a building full of people I don't know. Worst of all, I told him to obey instructions, but I neglected to say that he should not obey anyone trying to get him to leave the building. How could I have forgotten to tell him that? It would be the most natural thing in the world for him to obey someone who said, "Okay, now we're going outside for the next part of the party!" I can see him following cheerfully! Who would be watching out for him? NO ONE!!!

In vain I remind myself that we live in a relatively crime-free area. In all the years I've lived here, there's only been one thing that even SEEMED like attempted kidnapping, and it turned out to be some drunk idiot. Nothing bad is going to happen. There were five teenagers and several adults in charge of about a dozen children. I'm going to go back to the arcade in an hour and a half, and William's going to be there, pink-cheeked and wired and full of cake, with colored frosting stains on his shirt that won't come out, holding a goody bag and covered in germs from the vile ball pit, and with no answers to my anxious questions designed to discover if we sent a present of approximately the right value. And all the way home, I am going to drill him about not leaving the building with strangers.

Follow-up: Of course he was totally fine and safe. On the way home I said tentatively, "Was it okay, not having me there with you?" and he said, "I had so much fun, I forgot all ABOUT you!"


Type (little) a said...

Good Gravy, that mother is brave. Much as I hate the "overprotective freaks" (of which I am one), I would NEVER accept the mantle of 12 demon spawn, NEVER.

Funnily enough, I never remember my mother staying at a birthday party unless it was someone in our family. She did the drop at the door, honk to pick up. I can FATHOM that. Freedom! The sweet freedom!!

I loathe children's birthday parties. Loathe loathe loathe. I always have the exact experience you describe.

At my daughter's most recent birthday, we offered up the cupcakes to the grown-ups. Most did the laugh thing, and the "pudgy" pregnant lady refused, while the skinny preggers was like "Oooh ME!, I need a FUCKING CUPCAKE over here!!" Twas quite funny.

As for you, go get drunk!! Or a pedicure!

Jeninacide said...

i am glad I don't have to deal with the whole BIRTHDAY PARTY thing just yet. It sounds like there is a WHOLE LOT OF ISSUES revolving around the whole PARTY THING in general.

P.S. I want some cake. Dammit.

Erica said...

I'm totally one of those overprotective freaks and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Sarah said...

I can't even imagine accepting the liablity of watching children I am unfamiliar with. How on earth does she expect to be able to even recognize the party children as they run loose at the arcade, much less be responsible for what happens to them?

And how can she be so rude as to not introduce herself, "Hi, I'm Joan! Thanks for coming to Paxton's party today!" I'm sure that party was hardly her idea of a good time, but still! "We're all set up to supervise the kids, but your'e welcome to stay if you'd like!" What's that cost her?

I'm sure William will have had a great time and that you'll spend the rest of the day peeling him off the ceiling. I'm glad that, for now, my children are too small to have these social engagments. :)

Minnesota Matron said...

Parenting does require faith. Without question, once you actually leave the child--wherever you leave them -- you remember all the safety tips you should've given them.

My middle child is an actor. She has herculean transportation needs. So when in her last show, another parent offered to car pool, I jumped (semi-hysterically) at the chance. The car pool went swimmingly -- the other actor child was actually a 15 year old boy and mine, a 9 year old girl. But I loved this boy and trusted the mom.

One day, it was a good 40 minutes post-performance and my kid wasn't home. I called the Mom's cell and it turned out that she had taken MY CHILD to another city to run some errands.


I was BURNING. She got home another 40 minutes later. Safe. Importantly,not bothered by the errands.

"Mom! I had fun with X and his mama."

But the message to me was to help my daughter identify potentially dangerous or inappropriate or even unexpected situations -- to ask where she was going, to ask to call, to question the process.


But, I will still trust, have faith, then them out with baby steps in the world. You're doing the right thing.

Mine did come home safe,after all.

Artemisia said...

This is exactly why I can't be a parent. I freaked out about leaving my DOGS in a kennel that all of my extended family use FREQUENTLY. But this was MY BUSTER. What if...


Other than being freaked out that my did would disappear, the ball pit would absolutely be my second fear.

Hang in there. I am certain you will have all of your kids at home in no time, all demanding your time and energy. You will be exhausted and happy. In the meantime, I'll be thinking of you!

mnn said...

the cake comment is so true and so does happen! i don't like turning down cake bc after all, it's a birthday! maybe the mom is like me, all stressed bc all eyes are on me to see how i did this party! kids are more forgiving, ha. hope he had a good time.

desperate housewife said...

Oh, you sound like my mama. And like me, in a couple years. I always expected her to be happy when she got a break from our constant needs, yet she always seemed relieved to pick us up again. Who can explain it?

Erin said...

Awww. This made me fret for you. And also made me laugh. And also made me dread the days when my child is independent enough to be left at a party without me. And also made me giddy at the idea that my child will one day be independent enough to be left at a party without me.

Now I need an update. William is back safe and sound just like you said, right?

Leeann said...


I had to smile.

I clearly remember leaving my first born, now nearly 13, at a birthday party for the first time. It was at a child's HOME and I was still a nervous wreck.

There are parties where I am fine with parents dropping off their kids (we have a great jump party place here where only the kids in your party are there- it is not an open arena) but Chuck E Cheese (or the like)..not so much! There are just so MANY KIDS to be watching out for.

I am sure he is fine and safe.
You probably did this, but next time make sure to introduce him to the mom in charge (ask her what he should call her..then you'll know her name also!) and let him know that if he needs anything he should go to HER and that he should not leave with any. one. but you or your husband. Make sure she knows that also, that only one of the two of you would be picking him up.

I'm sure he was fine..these growing pains are hard, often more so for us mommies than our kiddos.


Jennifer said...

Who in the hell turns down cake?

d e v a n said...

Hehe. The whole thing made me giggle.
Good for you for leaving, I'm not sure I could have! THat mother was brave and also I find it strange that she wanted no other parents. OTHER ADULTS are the only thing that makes those parties worthwhile. (for me. The kids love cake and screaming and playing and all that crap.)

I never turn down birthday cake either.

Jen4 @ Amazing Trips said...

I'm fretting with you. I was thinking the very thing you wrote, before you even wrote it, about leaving my little one in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people that he is supposed to "trust."

What if there are sickos that come and hang out at these joints just looking for parents that drop off their children and WAIT for the opportunity to swoop in??

I'm a bundle of nerves whenever we visit parks. Especially when we are participating in a triplet play date and there are three-year-olds swarming. I've got one eye on the children and another eye scanning the parking lot for out-of-place people, those with cameras, and suspicious vans.

If that makes me uptight, so be it. And I never turn down cake. That's just plain rude. So long as I can eat cake with one hand, with my other on a can of mace, I'm set.

Kristin.... said...

My oldest is also in first grade. We hosted her birthday party in January and not one parent stayed. Luckily, we were in a rec center and it was just our little group, but I was surprised that no one offered to stay. I am that nervous mother; I would rather stay unless it's at someone's home and I know them well (or at least their name!). Not sure if that mother is brave or insane.
And after all your stress, he didn't even notice. KIDS. :)

aibee said...

Daniel's two, and his birthday parties have so far consisted of me inviting a whole bunch of adults over and calling it a kid's party.

Blog entries like this (ie ones that freak me out with visions of my future being filled with all the women not introducing themselves back to me AND THEN leaving my precious child in their socially retarded hands) remind to run with that until he's at least twenty five.

the new girl said...

I love how we pace and fret and wring our hands with all-comsuming worry and concern and they play a couple rounds of skee-ball and FORGET ALL ABOUT US.


moo said...

aw, kids. They are so PRESHUS.

I think if I was you, minus four kids or so, I would've sat in the parking lot, just to be sure he didn't leave.

Hmm ... maybe I'm more protective than I think I am.

Swistle said...

Update posted! Yes, he's fine. I was...REALLY HAPPY TO SEE HIM. I KNEW he'd be there, but...

Anyway. Next time I'm bringing a book and getting a parking space right outside the door.

Natalie said...

Oh gosh, I sooo understand where you are coming from. I know my son is rapidly approaching the age where parents might be expecting me to LEAVE the premises and well, I am JUST NOT READY. You are brave, and I am glad everything was fine.

The first time parents show up at one of my son's parties and then promptly leave, I'll freak out then too!

Amber said...

Those places terrify me, the losing potential is so high. I know I'm a little irrational though and I'm okay with that.

Jess said...

Hahahahaha the response from William is priceless. So innocent, yet so cruel! I'm glad he didn't get abducted by strangers.

Jerseygirl89 said...

I'm so glad I'd don't have to deal with this yet. It was hard enough for me to leave Ironflower at preschool!

sara said...

Loved this one Swistle! Ahhhh...the vile ball pit....all the germs you can ask for....and a dirty feet smell wafting throughout!

Farrell said...

I would totally be the same way.

Alice said...

god. i should totally not have kids, EVER. my imagination is FAR FAR too active, and i've watched FAR TOO MANY "without a trace" and "law & order" episodes.

Misty said...

*wrinkles nose*

That mother was inappropriate. I guess you might have felt pressured to leave. I don't know what I would have done in that situation, but I know that had I left, I would have felt the same way as you.

So, I feel like a "shame on her" for making you feel unwelcome is warranted. In the same vein, though. When does it become inappropriate to stay with a child at a party? I just don't know. I am a scaredy-paranoid-freak when it comes to my kids. Little help?

Amber said...

I was a birthday party host on Saturday (for the first time) at our home, and while it is stressful to have it at your house, I think it would have been worse to have it at the horrible pizza arcade. All the parents stayed, which was fine with me because I had some adults to talk to and no crying kids who wanted their mom.

And even though I'm just a stepmom? I'm with you on the wanting to stay, especially if I didn't know the parents of the birthday kid. A book and a nearby parking spot sounds GREAT.

Liz :) said...

All I have to say is OMG! I am the same, I have never left my child at any of the parties they get invited to. I'm always that "crazy mother that won't leave" and by the way, my children are fine with that! :) (I think) Anyway, what a coincidence because I had to take my girls to a party on Saturday at an Arcade place too and I was shocked that ladies were going and dropping off their kids to these parents they had never met in a place with hundreds of other families and they were okay with it, they looked glad in fact that they were getting some time away from them. I was shocked to say the least. The mother of the birthday child didn't look like she had a plan, was pregnant and had 12 kids to follow, which she barely knew names of, and so I stood and helped.... Five hours later, I realized why the mothers were so happy to drop them off to us, of course they needed a break! These children were crazy! Insane! Out of Control! I couldn't believe it, but I also realized why we tend to have "family parties" at my house for birthdays! :) haha.. :)

Swistle said...

Misty- I don't know! I've always planned on staying, or else Paul is the one who stays. Paul is in fact rather a HIT at children's parties, where he hangs out with all the moms being Mr. Wonderful and knowing how to, for example, record bowling scores.