A New Birthday Strategy

Posted by Danny

There have been some changes in birthday parties this year.  I think I simply approach things in a different manner than my wife did.

The guest list

Years past:  In depth conversation about who to invite to the party.  Whose feelings would be hurt if they weren’t included.  Whose birthdays Stephanie had attended that year.  Ponderance over whether to invite school friends only or to stretch into other groups.

This year:   “Stephanie, who are your best friends?”

“How many can I invite?”

“More than 5, less than a dozen.”

The theme

Years past:  Discussion over the theme.  What to wear, where to go.  What to do.  What to eat.  Reservations and well thought out plans. 

This year:  “What do you want to do?”


“Sleepover or no?”


45 minutes before the party started I was leaving work.  Did  I have reservations?  Nope.  Did I call in advance?  Nope. But I knew where three different bowling alleys were located and had a full tank of gas.

The invitation

Years past:  Beautiful printed invitations.  Lisa would either hit one of those nice stationery stores and splurge on an invitation that complimented the party theme or she would order special stationary and print the invitation herself. 

This year:  Three emails

Email 1 – Two weeks out:  Sorry this is an email and not a written invitation.  Is next Friday open for your kid for Stephanie’s birthday party?

One week out:  We’re on.

One day out:  Meet at our house at 5:30 pm.  I think we’re going bowling.

The budget

Years past:  Lisa was actually pretty budget conscious when it came to birthday parties.  Several years ago, we went to a birthday party where an animal man brought out snakes and warthogs, lizards and tarantulas.  At another party,the kid had a carnival in her yard with six of those huge blow up things you climb and jump on – she had a blow up Titanic in her yard. 

When our kids were young, we’d pull out the sprinkler and three buckets.  They were three or four years old – Lisa wasn’t spending money on extravagant activities.  She’d say, “They’ll have fun with dirt.  We don’t need reptiles to entertain them.”

One year she had a tea party – the girls came dressed up and Lisa was too – floral dress with a big fat hat.  They sat at our dining room table – cloth napkins, formal tablecloth, tea cups and pots, sugar cubes, and flowers at each child’s place.  Then Lisa played the piano and the girls sat around and sang.  I felt like I’d traveled back in time to 1956 – both in theme and cost.

This year:  Store bought cake:  $20

Bowling: $100 – They made us rent two lanes at $50 each per hour!  And then the smart alec high school student who rang us up and who noticed me about swallow my tongue when she said “that’ll be $100” told me, “It’s ONLY about $8 per kid.”  Apparently she didn’t do well in math, because it was about $11 per kid and that didn’t even include water.

Dinner:  $75

Gift:  (her first cell phone – unlimited calls and text)  $50 + 10 years of monthly service fees

Doughnuts for breakfast:  $15

Sodas, popcorn, milk and OJ:  $20


Years past:  Lisa had a rule – birthday parties should never be more than 1 1/2 hours.  Leave ’em wanting more she’d say.

This year:  18 hours (OK – Lisa did let them have sleepovers as they got older.  But it was a good rule when they were young.)

I liked her parties better – but the kids had fun and that’s what counts.

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