By Dina A. Meek
Oh, those halcyon days of the grade-school birthday party. When my only concerns were to make sure I’d addressed all potentially deadly food allergies, invited everyone in the class to avoid hurt feelings, and managed to keep 25 maniacal kids from breaking limbs or chipping teeth. If only the teen/tween party were that easy.
I knew I had moved into more hostile territory when recently, in the aisles of Prairie Gardens, the conversation with my almost 13-year-old daughter went something like this:
Party hostess (aka her): Mom, can we get these plates and napkins?
Clueless party lackey (me): Uh, wow, honey those are a little expensive.
PH: Well mom, my party can’t be lame!
Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.
I had – I realize now, foolishly – assumed her small Halloween-themed sleepover for four would be one I’d organize and oversee much as I had when my children were younger. And pliable. I suppose the fact it practically took an act of Congress for my daughter to finalize her guest list should have been my first clue about how these things would now play out.
Then, there were the aforementioned decorations. Everything I picked up was deemed “too childish” — her actual words. You would think this mega-holiday would offer a line, or even a whole store, catering to the tween/teen party demographic. Neither too childish nor boringly adult. And did I mention party activities? Forget bobbing for apples, as I had done at Halloween parties in my past. Not only is drooling over a communal tub of water now accepted as pretty gross, who wants to get their face wet for the kind of chump change my mom stuffed into the apples as a prize?
When it came to food, we had a lactose-intolerant challenge to get past (note: you really cannot trust a rice crispy treat recipe lacking in dairy products). But, of course, what was more an issue was the plethora of cute kitty-cat-faced designs that would surely have evoked the “c-word” from my daughter, who was sounding more like a junior Martha Stewart with every passing day.
In the end, I did figure it all out. I let my daughter design e-vitations (highly recommended). I mapped out a neighborhood scavenger hunt using cell phones to capture images of the items (to avoid knocking on any strange doors). I hunted down tween-friendly recipes for things like “dragon’s blood punch,” and found the craft store to be a Godsend in terms of game prizes and party favors (the black cat dispensing jelly beans from its tail-end was particularly fun).
I can now cross this mothering milestone from my list and offer a prayer of thanks that my 15-year-old son has, thus far, made birthday parties even easier than they were during his grade school years. A birthday party? Seriously mom? How lame.
Dina A. Meek is a writer, wife, mom, gardener, soccer fan and chocolaholic living and working in C-U. Her adventurous spirit has carried her from city to country life; now, she is happily settled somewhere in between. Read more at The Crisis Chronicles.