Tonight We're Going to Party Like it’s 1999 Only I Have Kids Now and My 401(k) Was Destroyed

Every Monday, find Mom-101 cross-posted at Time Out Kids where you'll find many great diversions around NYC for the family, to compensate for ignoring them while you're reading blogs.

There are plenty of scary things about parenting in New York: Playground germs, the price of preschool, navigating c-store aisles with a double stroller. But the thing that’s caused more anxiety in me has been the prospect of throwing a children’s birthday party.

These days, it’s impossible to keep up with even the other keeper-uppers, or those keeping up with the keeper-uppers, let alone the Joneses themselves. We’ve all heard the stories. And they’re insane. I can just imagine some of these parents having to say to their children one day, Sorry honey, we can't afford college for you, but you did have Jean-Georges make your birthday cake when you were two. It was chocolate-raspberry! Remember? Remember?

Thalia’s about to turn two on Friday so I still have some time before the parties get out of control. (Also until she has more than one friend to invite.) But when that time comes, I can't compete with the $50,000 princess/ superhero/ Daddy-made-millions-on-hedge-funds parties. I don't want to compete. Did I mention I can't compete?

I figure if you can’t outspend, outwit. So I jotted down a few local but affordable party ideas for the future that I'm tossing around instead:

Sleepover at the Mayor's Office
Who needs to sleep over at the Bronx Zoo or the Museum of Natural History when one of the great city landmarks is just over the bridge from us? The highlight of the evening is gathering the kids around a single flashlight at midnight and telling scary stories of budget cuts, transit fare hikes, and the D'Amato years.

Backyard Barbecue
Our friends in Chelsea with a coveted fire escape off the living room (i.e. "outdoor space") will lend us the place for the afternoon. Nate can set up a mini hibachi grill out there, churning out about six hot dogs an hour. The kids will take turns playing in the great outdoors, one at a time. Fresh air!

Sidewalk Petting Zoo
Without spending one penny or waiting on one line, the kids will have unfettered access to animals from squirrels to pigeons to squirrels.

Dora the Urban Explorer Party
Each kid gets a purple backpack filled with snacks and toy binoculars as we journey to uncharted territory like the Times Square Olive Garden and Staten Island.

We’ll pitch our own tents outside the Public Theater a week before Shakespeare in the Park tickets go on sale. Come on! It will be fun! And mommy wants to see Kevin Kline.

A Day of Crafts
We can set up tables in Dag Hammarskjold plaza by the U.N. and paint colorful signs using pretty Arabic letters. Pay no attention to the photographer in the van with the CIA-issue Ray Bans.

Subway Party
Kids will get first-hand exposure to the color and diversity of New York spending three consecutive hours underground. Refreshments provided by children selling boxes of M-n-M's for their schools. (That’s, “for their schools.”) A continuous stream of musical entertainment provided by That Guy With the Guitar on the 6 train, That Guy With the Steel Drum on the 2 train, and on the A, That Guy Who Sort of Sings But Isn't Entirely Aware That Anyone's Watching Him.

Free Movies in Bryant Park Not on a Monday
Come on everybody, and gather around the iPod!


Blogger Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

Mom 101 - you make me smile. Great post.

7/2/07, 9:21 AM  
Blogger Overwhelmed! said...

Love this post! I have inlaws that live in CA and I'm amazed at what they spend on their daughter for her birthday, in an effort to keep up with the Jones.

For her 1st party, Gabrielle's parents created a Circus Tent theme...complete with cotton candy machine, ice cone machine, bean bag toss and other circus type games, and over the top decorations.

For her 2nd party this year, Gabrielle's parents created a petting zoo theme. They spent a pretty penny for a company to set up a real live petting zoo in their back yard. Again, the decorations were over the top!

As for us, we have a few friends and family over for lunch and cake and just have fun playing in our house. Simple, cheap, and at 2 years old Snuggle Bug isn't complaining!

7/2/07, 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL. The funny thing is, the kids don't care whether it is an extravanganza or just playtime and cake. When my son was 4 and 5, we had the entertainment parties -- a clown and an animal show. And then I realized the kids had just as much fun playing as sitting still watching a show. So now I let the other parents compete with the Chuck E Cheese, amusement park and Lazerzone parties, and we just have kids over to play and eat cake.

Starts at 2 ends at 4, pop the cork at 4:15 :-)

7/2/07, 10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I burst out laughing at the first one. Sleep over at the mayor's office. Yikes!

I can't believe that people will actually spend $50k on a birthday party that lasts all of three hours. wow.

7/2/07, 10:58 AM  
Blogger Maewen Archer said...

Love the Mayor's office idea. And the petting zoo.

I seriously can't believe people spend that much on kids' parties. I can honestly say that my kids don't care -- got cake? presents? OK. Geesh.

7/2/07, 11:17 AM  
Blogger luannemarie said...

Kid's parties are out of control these days. When Jacob turned 7, we had friends over and I tried to be creative to keep them entertained. We did pin-the-tail, bob for apples, and a "guess how many jelly beans are in the jar." But, I kept eating the jelly beans, so it wasn't really fair. They had a good time, I went a tad bit crazy and it was done.
Good luck with Thalia's party, she will love it. And if she is anything like my 3 year old, the frosting on the cake is the best part :)

7/2/07, 12:44 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

We had pony rides at our two-year-old's party. Toss hair, smirk, feel superior - Totally kidding!

It was actually a party for a dozen toddlers. Our mom group was formed a month after births at the local hospital, so all the kids have close birthdays. We just met everyone at a farm and had a joint party. I think we managed a cake and some vegetables too.

Mayor's office - maybe next year.

7/2/07, 2:40 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Very funny! It is amazing what people will spend on their kids to keep up. I would rather spend it on a vacation.

7/2/07, 3:25 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

I was thinking Old Fashioned Game Night.

Pin the tail on Desi.


7/2/07, 3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My sister rented two ponies for my nieces 6th birthday party. So the kids could have pony rides. They live in Texas, but still. For her eighth birthday party, my niece and nine of her closest friends went to Build-A-Bear and each built their own bear (my sister paid for every bear.) This year, my niece turned 10, so she had a slumber party. First, she took her friends to a salon where they all got makeovers, complete with fake hair. Then they went out for sushi.

My kids get a cake and some balloons (that's as fancy as I can decorate) and hot dogs off the grill. We know how to live.

7/2/07, 4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll make them happiest if you offer them some expensive silk and a box of kohl eyeliner pencils.

7/2/07, 5:27 PM  
Blogger BOSSY said...

Or, um, cake and ice cream. For two adults and one neighbor kid. Worked throughout Bossy's youth!

7/2/07, 7:40 PM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

As if you'd EVER serve a chocolate raspberry cake! Puh-leez. . .

7/2/07, 8:15 PM  
Blogger ~Kat~ said...

BRILLIANT! You could be a professional party planner now... at some point all those parents are going to run out of ideas and a "boho" kiddie party will be the "new black" when it comes to bashes... right?
Anyways- what I really want to say is that my Iris is exactly a week younger than your Thalia... so HAPPY BIRTHDAY GIRLIES!
(mom to Iris and Sage... the *almost 7 year old superheropirate)

7/2/07, 8:22 PM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

LOL cute ideas. I could personally care less what the Joneses are up to.

Wanted to let you know I've featured your blog on my Monday Linkage post. Come visit me!

7/2/07, 10:20 PM  
Blogger Boochie Gilchrist said...

Make it a yard sale/dress-up party.

The girls can model your clothes, which you can then mark up even more. And you can use the proceeds to knock down that Costco bill.

Thalia can throw on some wardrobe from your mid-90s and be "Mommy: The C-cup years."

7/2/07, 10:57 PM  
Blogger Mocha said...

As soon as that gets up and running, I'm going to visit NYC for the first time ever.

Can I stay with you?

7/3/07, 11:21 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Wow. You ideas sound far more interesting than mine. :-)

7/3/07, 3:41 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

A trip to Staten Island? Unchartered territory, for sure, and no doubt, one adventure the kiddos would never forget.

7/3/07, 8:58 PM  
Blogger Moondance said...

We just went to a five year old's party with cake and a water baloon fight, then some time running in the sprinkler. The kids seemed to enjoy it to the exact same degree as the ones that include a trip somewhere and a professional entertainer.

7/3/07, 11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Starting new trends in NYC again, I see. I can see next year at this time that the sidewalk petting zoo will be wildly popular for the 5 and under set.

7/4/07, 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL - but scary. $25K? a year at DD's college (which, trust me, we're way struggling with!), and I'd much rather be paying for that.

Imagine, when another financial crash comes and goes, and the party-planner guy is seriously regretting the "deeply spiritual" 1-year birthday because his kid is scraping by to pay for community college instead of Harvard because there's no money left (except on paper, so they're not eligible for any financial aid...):-)

Anyway, it's very clear from that article that it's all about the adults, not the kids. DS doesn't even remember one of our more "extravagant" efforts, his 4th I think - buckets of legos, set the kids loose, everyone took home whatever they made (instead of goodie bags). A good time was had by all.

Thanks for the laughs!

7/4/07, 10:46 AM  
Blogger Candace April said...

When I was in high school and college, I worked for a company doing kids parties and I was SHOCKED by how much people spent...in the suburbs...in the 1990s. I can only imagine what it is like now in Manhattan.

Baby Diva is coming up on Birthday #1. Since we've just moved back to New York and the highlight of her day is when we throw her stuffed Gund worm through a teething ring, I'm not feeling the pressure.

We'll have sandwiches and beer for the adults and Baby Diva will get lots of attention--which should make it like any other day except there will be a greater concentration of the families in one spot.

7/6/07, 9:52 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

What a lovely post, I can relate to it as a father of a 6 years old. Last month I was In Staten Island for my daughter. I asked for a service from kidz-lounge site which was not only affordable but also very entertaining. All my friends and family had a lovely outing, it truly was memorable evening.

9/11/14, 5:52 AM  

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