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Throwing a Party Means Ponying Up the Dough

No longer is a magician an acceptable form of entertainment for children.

I looked at some 8mm film that I had transferred to DVD. Within the collection of family memories was my fifth birthday party (1963). The party was held in our two-bedroom apartment in Laurelton, Queens. I had 10 friends in attendance.

Apparently I was more popular at 5 than I am now.

We ate pizza and cake and played pin the tail on the donkey. According to the footage, everyone then ended up in my room where we all played with my toys. That was followed by a game of hide-and-seek outside (A good time was had by all).

Let’s jump to 2011. No longer is it socially acceptable to invite a handful of kids to your house for passé party games … it’s not even enough if you spurge for a magician or face painter or balloon twister … not even if you include the magician, face painter and balloon twister.

It’s no longer a party. It’s a spectacle. It can be viewed from outer space along with the Great Wall of China (Presently the number one Bar-Mitzvah destination … The Great Wall of China that is … Space is number two). In order for your 3-year-old to show his face in pre-school without feeling humiliated, you better rent the Bronx Zoo for an afternoon for your child and his 300 closest friends. The magician, face painter and balloon twister each takes his place on one of three elephants.

Keeping the theme going (you must have a theme) everyone is transported via rented limo buses to Broadway where you have paid for a private performance of the Lion King. This is followed by a fireworks display on the Hudson during your private Circle Line cruise around the city with the cast of Lion King (in costume) as special guests.

Thankfully my kids have a winter birthday so unless my wife plans on renting out the NY Islanders for a hockey game … in which case my money would be on the kids winning, I refuse to take out a second mortgage for a 4-year-old party. We are already fighting about this. My wife drew up a list of approximately 75 kids. She also created a PowerPoint presentation of several party sites and activities.

No one seems to trust kids to have fun by their own making. My parents gave me a ball and let me go to the park ... with my friends … unsupervised. And don’t tell me it was a safer time. There were just as many perverts then too. My father was president of the pervert club and said the meetings were always packed.

Today, you don’t just give a kid a ball. You must hire a place that simulates the outdoors…indoors. They have 16-year-old employees who are paid $4 an hour to watch the kids and show then a ball is round ... you can throw it … and catch it … and pick it up. Thankfully, the kids get pizza too and you only have to pay $1,000 for two hours. A bargain at any price.

Here’s an idea for a mattress store. Do birthday parties. Call it Bounce Land. Let kids jump on the mattresses in the showroom for an hour. Give them pizza. Charge $500 and trust me, just like the movie "Field of Dreams," build it and they will come.

One last thought before I have my daily embolism. The reason no one plays "pin the tail on the donkey" anymore:

  1. PETA deems it cruelty to animals.
  2. Blindfolding children is offensive to the blind.
  3. The pin can be used as a weapon and we should have zero tolerance.
Vilma Sceusa June 18, 2011 at 06:59 PM
Hilarious and so true! My advice is don't get caught up in the madness and keep it simple. For the most part, my kids don't remember anything I did for them in nursery school...so you're safe!!
Randy Levin June 18, 2011 at 08:06 PM
Thank You. Did you just discover my weekly column? You might be interested in the 10 that came before this. My final one will be next Saturday. I have to concentrate on finishing up my novel (Writing not reading).
Rick Morgan June 18, 2011 at 10:48 PM
Mr. Levin good luck with your book. We'll miss the lightness and funny tales you tell here. Especially when it seems the world has gone mad and when it seems families don't matter as much anymore.
TCHanf June 19, 2011 at 12:42 AM
1963....8 mm....pin the tail on the donkey. 2011....iphones....Nintendo. Wow , my kids must be better off right? If you think not then please examine your choices. Look forward to your novel Randy.
Barry H. Kaplan June 19, 2011 at 04:34 AM
Thanks for the article. Sad, but true. Luck with novel. Barry Kaplan
amy romano June 19, 2011 at 06:21 AM
You write what many parents think but are afraid to say out loud. Were they simpler times when we were growing up or were kids expected to be just kids? I think of all the parties I made for my 2 daughters and realize I could be living in Upper Brookville now if we just served cake and ice cream at home.
Rita Etienne Blickstein June 19, 2011 at 12:21 PM
Thanks for the chuckle and the memories when birthday parties were to celebrate, not try to out do one another. Will miss your column and please let us know on Patch when you finish your novel so we can read it. Have a Happy Father's Day!
Christina Tisi-Kramer June 19, 2011 at 12:28 PM
I totly agree with you!!!! First you have to buck up for th party by paying for the entertainment of All the children (whatever you come up with), then you have to feed them a meal, then you have to give them cake and to top it all off YOU HAVE TO PROVIDE A GOODY BAG for the $20.00 gift you get for your child with no gift receipt! I have spoken to many moms about not doing the goody bags and taking a stand and most say they are mortified to be the one to say ther are none when the KIDS ASK!!! I don't ever remember as child receiving a goody bag. And it's mostly junk anyway. But that junk costs $$$ maybe I will be the crusader :)
Jenn June 19, 2011 at 01:03 PM
I was hoping to avoid this nonsense since my soon to be 4 year old has a birthday in July and school would be well over -- didn't happen. I wanted a backyard party with friends and family like we have had for the last few years. It was my husband who said "But what about all those parties we had to go to during the year? Do you want her to miss out on that?" - ugh. Good luck Randy. Also - pin the tail on the donkey (for those that oppose it): is it better to give 1 kid a thumbtack sized pin, or stick 12 kids of varying sizes into a bounce house so they can break each others necks when the bigger kids fall on a smaller one? Or better yet, let's hand a kid a baseball bat, blindfold him and tell him to swing until he bashes the head of spongebob in so candy will spill out? - How's that for safety? hahaha
CY June 19, 2011 at 03:40 PM
If you have a child born between May and October, you have no excuse for not having a cheap birthday party--outside! My daughter's birthday is in the middle of the holiday season, so either we have a bunch of kids running around knocking over our Christmas tree or we have to (unfortunately) have the party out. Either way, if your child's birthday party costs more than the night out on your wedding anniversary, you need to prioritize and get a life.
Jenn June 19, 2011 at 05:08 PM
Since my anniversary dinner and outing usually runs about $500 - I think we're good.
Laura Silverberg June 20, 2011 at 01:41 PM
At my age, I remember the "old days". Maybe some of them should come back. You are right on when you say it is a sort of "Can you top this". Drive through suburban neighborhoods and you rarely see kids playing outside. It is sad. Kids can't make their own fun. Looking forward to your last article and hope that you will return with more insight into today's art of raising children. The articles always gave me a laugh each week. Good Luck to you!! Laura
Donna Waitkus June 20, 2011 at 05:24 PM
Thank You! I have enjoyed your articles. Good luck with the book!
Lisa June 20, 2011 at 07:34 PM
I couldn't agree more. These parties are not for the children; they're for the parents! To impress THEIR friends. It's gotten ridiculous with 3 year old birthdays, bridal and baby showers and more. It's the American affliction: more ..bigger..more bigger!!!! And then the parents wonder why the children are spoiled and have no concept of value(s).
Sharon Silverstein June 20, 2011 at 08:12 PM
My neighbors actually invested in those giagantic inflatables (rather than rent) for thier sixteen moth old daughter. How cost-conscious is that? Going to miss your wise-cracking point of view.
MerrickGuy June 20, 2011 at 08:55 PM
If you want a recession proof job, go into the children's party business! Great article. Thanks Randy.
Randy Levin June 20, 2011 at 09:21 PM
THANK YOU. One more article next Friday. As for the novel, publishing today is chaotic at best. Chances are it won't be published. :)
Randy Levin June 20, 2011 at 09:22 PM
THANKS. One more next week :)
Rita Etienne Blickstein June 20, 2011 at 09:24 PM
You can self publish!
Lisa Fazio Cotroneo June 20, 2011 at 09:30 PM
I run an art studio and so my ideas for parties for my two girls ages 15 and 19 was endless. From barbie and ken parties to butterfies. They asked to stop the parties when they realized i was having the most fun! I loved your funny point of view and agree with othes comments. After teaching kids for 17 years i realize kids today have their parents taking loans out to fulfil their every wish. They walk around with a sense of entitlement and whos fault is that living in a country that encourages living beyond your needs. Kids today are losing their sense of imagination so much so that if you gave them a toy truck and asked them to change something about it, they wouldn't have a clue how to do that. They would hire someone else to do it for them!!!
Ralph Horowitz June 20, 2011 at 09:35 PM
First..very true..I also agree with the first comment by Vilma...in fact, by age 5, they won't remember their 3rd party. We did them all at home, and the heck with what people thought. The one thing that won over every party, was we hung a piniata full of cheap candy in the garage to end the party. The kids swing a bat, scream and scramble for candy and go home with a bag of sugar to amaze their parents. (okay, that could be our revenge!) The best part....is the top of the piniata (where it's attached to the rope, which I raise and lower through a loop in the ceiling) always tears before the actual piniata breaks...and there is always some parent, who despite our screams on "Don't do it", tries to hold the piniata for the next kid..swinging a freakin wooden stick. Yea, you guessed it. Also good to have ice on hand at the party for some stupid parent's fingers. (No, it was never me..I worked the rope from 20 feet away!) Good luck....both with the party and your book.
Randy Levin June 21, 2011 at 06:56 AM
Thank you for the suggestion. However, I wouldn't self=publish if someone held a gun to my head. LOL. There is a reason it's called a VANITY press. I have no objections to people self-publishing non-fiction but I have HUGE issues with vanity presses for fiction. This isn't the forum for that discussion so if you are curious as to why, etc, email me. Thanks.
Julie Johnson June 23, 2011 at 05:29 AM
So sad only 1 more article left!! I am lucky that my boys are in their 20's. We did the pizza parties, bowling, etc., usually with around 10 kids, so it was reasonable. Also, boys are simpler-at least they were back then. I am still a HUGE fan of the pinatas..the videos are always a favorite on America's Funniest Home Videos. There's nothing funnier than a shot to the nads by a blindfolded kid!!! I also like Moonwalks; feed the kids pizza, cake & ice cream, send them in to bounce around, they puke & go home. Party is over in a snap! If your novel doesn't get published, but I'm hoping it will, you should write a book on parenting today. Your hilarious insights are a refreshing change from all the stuffy feel-good experts. All of those great parenting books over the years didn't keep us from turning our kids into self-centered snots. I was beat at school & then again at home & I turned out fine.

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