Between all of the cousins and second cousins in my familia I feel like I’m always on my way to a baby shower, wedding or kid’s birthday party. They’re all great opportunities to reunite with family, dig up old closeted skeletons, and catch up on the latest chisme.
But there comes a point when the purpose of the gathering can get lost amid the gossip and chatter – and I’ve found this to be especially true of Latino children’s birthday parties. I can’t count the many times I’ve been invited to “Junior’s 3rd Birthday Fiesta” or “Carmen’s Turning 5!” only to find a group of men playing horseshoes and a cooler full of Corona, the kids relegated to the backyard or some bedroom in the back of the house. There are no kids’ party games, no kid-friendly food offerings (although the kids in my family start eating green chile before they’re off the bottle), no clowns or magicians or party favors. At most there’s a brinqi jumper, which half the drunken adults will likely be bouncing around in by the end of the night until Tio Gordo pops it.
There’s nothing wrong with the grown-ups having a good time at their kids’ birthday parties. But the focus should be on ensuring the children have a good time – and simply smashing a piñata five hours into the fiesta won’t cut it. As a mom, I love planning my kids’ celebration parties. For birthdays I either choose a theme (cupcake party, tea party, etc) or a destination: my children have had parties everywhere from the bowling alley to the movie theater to the dinosaur museum. Kids who are invited know they’re going to get a fun-filled afternoon, more special than the usual playing/bickering with their primos, some great themed party favors, and a ton of awesome memories. Cost is always a concern for single moms, but kids’ parties don’t have to be expensive to be extravagant: the abundance of dollar stores makes for easy party planning, or get arts & craftsy and have homemade favors and decorations – you know you have a tia who can out-knit Martha Stewart!
Leave the kegs, shots of Patron and drunken renditions of ‘Volver’ to the adult parties; turn off the sports channel blaring in the living room; turn down the oldies, ranchera or banda soundtrack ; swap the calabacitas for pizzas; trade old Auntie Effenia plopped on the couch for a children’s storyteller or performer working the room; play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey rather than guess-who-hooked-up-with-whose-husband-back-in-the-day; send guests home with toys, chocolates and prizes rather than foil-wrapped plates of beans and cake slices “for later”; and invest the time and effort to create a magical experience for your child to commemorate his or her birth.
And then get to hittin’ that piñata!