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Jewish World Review
August 9, 2006
/ 15 Menachem-Av, 5766
We're Gonna Party Like it's $19.99
When throwing a party for young children, parents enjoy a wide variety of themes to
choose from. Traditionalists will opt for old standards like pirates, fairy
princesses or dinosaurs. The kids themselves, however, as well-trained consumers of
children's entertainment, tend to prefer such wholesome commercial themes as The
Little Mermaid, Spongebob Squarepants and Mortal Kombat VII: Blood Reckoning.
Truthfully, for many parents these days, the party's theme is not the primary
consideration. More important is using the party to convey a clear underlying
message, which is, "Look How Much Money We Have." For these parents, merely hiring a
magician is hardly sufficient. No, their little angel's party must also feature - at
a minimum - bouncy houses, pony rides, professional jugglers, fire-eaters, a team of
shiatsu massage therapists, the USC marching band and a live feed of the astronauts
aboard the Space Shuttle singing "Happy Birthday" to the guest of honor. Often today
the only way to tell the difference between a young child's birthday party and the
Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies is that most guests at a children's party are not
required to furnish a urine sample.
Another popular kid party trend these days is hiring a mobile petting zoo to set up
a caged-in area where ducks, rabbits, goats and chickens can poop all over your
lawn. From what I can tell, the way it works is, before opening the gate to the pen,
the attendant solemnly instructs the kids that the animals need to be treated gently
and don't appreciate being chased, grabbed or picked up. Then he opens the gate and
cuts out for a cigarette, at which point the kids all scramble in to chase, grab and
pick up the hapless animals. And since the poor creatures probably go through this
routine twice a day every weekend, the ironic result is a corral full of baby ducks
and rabbits conditioned to peck and bite any child in range.
But when you're talking about parents going overboard for children's parties, you
can't avoid mentioning Long Island tycoon David H. Brooks, who recently spent $10
million to hire, among others, Stephen Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, rapper 50
Cent and saxophonist Kenny G. to perform at his daughter's Bat Mitzvah. Now I know
what you hip teenagers reading this are thinking: "That's outrageous! Why waste
money on Aerosmith or 50 Cent when the kids are only going to want to see smooth
jazz legend Kenny G.?"
I admit to scratching my head over the notion of a kid's party with a higher price
tag than, say, the cost of rebuilding New Orleans. I was raised in an era (the
Pleistocene) when a child's birthday party consisted of a game of
pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey (and, unless he was quick, pin-the-tail-on-the-dog)
followed by cake and presents. The closest thing we had to a fire-eater was when my
friend Billy Mezzetti burned his eyebrows trying to swipe a taste of birthday cake
while I was blowing out the candles.
But turning a fire extinguisher on a friend's face wasn't our only entertainment. At
my mom's parties the highlight was always when my friends and I tried to guess how
many jelly beans were contained in a half-gallon mason jar. Whoever came closest got
to take the jar home. Or, more precisely, got to try to spirit the jar out of the
house while a dozen eight-year-old boys riding a serious frosting buzz assaulted him
like a horde of refugees tearing into a UN food delivery truck.
Now that our daughter is turning four, my wife and I are courageously bucking the
trend toward lavish, costly birthday parties. Not only do we strongly believe that
such events are tacky and send the wrong message to children, but we also feel that
kids should know how to amuse themselves and not need to be entertained constantly.
Plus we don't have the money.
And so, while my wife spent the past week cleaning, preparing food, making
decorations and coming up with ideas for games and activities, I've taken charge of
the kids' craft project. I haven't told my wife yet, but the children won't be doing
the usual fingerpainting, spin art, or paper crown decorating projects. Instead,
thanks to my exciting "Kids Around The Globe," theme, our young partygoers will
experience a taste of what life is like for disadvantaged children abroad by
spending 11 hours in the basement hand-stitching inseams into Nike cross-trainers.
Hey, since when is teaching kids a valuable lesson a bad thing? And if it helps
defray some of the costs of throwing the party, so much the better, I say.
Besides, I'm not a complete ogre. Unlike some parents, I would never force the kids
who come to our party listen to Kenny G.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Malcolm Fleschner is a humor columnist for The DC Examiner. Let him know what you think by clicking here.
07/19/06: Just Singing in the Brain
05/24/06: Who says you can't go home again?
05/11/06: When nightly news stories go off script
04/26/06: Cents and sensibility: A thought for your pennies
03/16/06: The day the Muzak died
02/23/06: Checkbook diplomacy begins at home
02/15/06: Today's toys: Where learning means earning
© 2006, Malcolm Fleschner