Recently there was a flurry of activity in our kitchen. Our daughter, Casey, had come home to us, not because she missed her parents, but because she needed our massive kitchen island which, due perhaps to some overzealousness on our part when we remodeled the kitchen, is the size of some actual islands.
This happens every year, usually around Easter, but it has nothing to do with resurrections or bunnies. It’s just that Casey’s young cousin has a birthday around then, and Casey is always in charge of decorations, games and, most important of all, baked goods.
The cousin picks the theme and Casey goes to work. In the past, our kitchen has been home to Sesame Street cookies and Frozen cakes. This year, the cousin was turning six, and the theme was something called Shopkins. I had no idea what these were, but they sounded horrifying. I looked it up online and, as near as I can tell, it’s kids’ programming intended to teach two important lessons: 1) Anything can have a face and, 2) There is a lot of Shopkins-branded stuff you can ask your parents for.
So Casey had baked a huge, multiple-layered cake with a smiling face on it, and now our kitchen counter was covered with cookies decorated to look like shopping bags, teapots and penises. The last was because Casey was simultaneously baking for a bachelorette party.
She was being extra careful not to mix up the two occasions.
As I attempted to unearth a small piece of island real estate on which to eat my lunch, I asked Casey, “So how many kids are coming to this bash?”
“Between 25 and 45,” she replied.
“That seems like a very wide range,” I said. “Who invites that many kids to a 6-year-old’s birthday party?”
My wife Barbara came in just then. “They have to invite the whole class now,” she said. “And the whole Hebrew school class.”
I nodded, remembering that I had heard something about this latest of society’s overreactions. The previous generation had been all about self-esteem, so we had kids’ sports leagues where everybody was a winner and got trophies for “trying really hard.” That somehow resulted in millennials who don’t know where to put a stamp on an envelope without asking their parents.
Now society is worried about bullying and shaming, so, basically, kids aren’t allowed to have friends anymore. That’s because if Madison is friends with Brooklyn, Emma will feel slighted and get a lot of body piercings. Or something like that. So instead of having friends, kids have networks consisting of every child they come into contact with, and if you invite one of them somewhere, you have to invite all of them.
Which is why Casey’s cousin’s parents had to rent out a room at a local recreation center to have the party. And why they didn’t know how many of the 45 kids they’d had to invite were coming. After all, if your child gets invited to the parties of every kid he or she knows, you’re bound to be a little behind on your RSVPing.
While the intention of this “invite everybody” rule might be inclusion regardless of race, religion, body type or social status, as usually happens when organizations try to impose social rules, there are unintended consequences. Now, instead of Sophia feeling bad because Isabella invited Mia to her party and not Sophia, Isabella feels horrible because, even though Mia and Charlotte are her only good friends, she was forced to invite all the kids in her first grade class and her entire soccer team, but all the kids in her first grade class and her soccer team weren’t forced to come, so only Mia, Charlotte and Sophia did, because very few kids actually like Isabella.
Did you follow that?
When Casey was growing up, we’d have a few of her friends over, and I’d design an elaborate treasure hunt and we’d hit her in the face with a pie (long story). Nowadays, parents have to read up on all the rules before even beginning to think about the festivities. Google “birthday party etiquette,” and you’ll get over 1,100,000 hits, most pertaining to kids.
So many rules. But the “invite everyone” law is the worst.
Not only are these party Nazis dictating who you have to invite to your kid’s party, they’re also indirectly dictating what kind of party you can have. Because, whereas you might be able to spring for $200 to, say, take 10 kids to Chuckie Cheese, you’re not about to blow over $500 to take 30 kids, most of whom your kid doesn’t even like, and one of whom actually once beat your kid up.
On the other hand, you’ll be damned if you’re going to have 30 six-year-olds running around your house. And don’t forget to account for all of the 30 kids’ food allergies, and, by all means, make sure you have enough liability insurance in case little Beau injures himself while trying to ride your poodle.
On the third hand, renting a recreation center for the day isn’t cheap, and most people don’t have a party planner/baker like Casey in the family.
The bottom line is that many families could end up not being able to afford to throw their kids a birthday party at all, unless they do it on the sly and swear participants to secrecy as if attending a meeting of some underground cult. A non-disclosure agreement is highly recommended.
I’m not sure why all this has made me so angry, since it doesn’t affect me in the slightest, other than to overrun my kitchen for a day. It just pisses me off when parents and schools try to social engineer their kids’ lives.
And it’s disconcerting to see Shopkins and penises simultaneously cavorting on your kitchen counter.
See you soon.