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A Vote for Return of Musical Chairs, Egg Tosses

November 20, 1986|JONI WINN HILTON

When I was growing up, you dropped clothespins into a Mason jar, or you threw a raw egg back and forth. Sometimes there were scavenger hunts or spook alleys, but most of the games' ingredients came out of a kitchen drawer. Like all my playmates, I loved those parties and relished the laughter and chatter of noisy kids who knew how to make their own fun.

But you don't see many birthday parties like that anymore.

Along with hundreds of other parents, I've fallen into the Party Pit, where every birthday looks like the wild invention of Dr. Seuss. Fanned by the guilt of working mothers who no longer have time to plan a party themselves, the dragnet has scooped up full-time parents as well, who feel they must keep up with the new state of the party.

I've had carnivals, train and pony rides, clowns, magicians, Santa Claus, a Gymboree party, and a bowling party complete with M & M-filled trophies. Last summer my youngest child turned three amid cupcakes and party hats at the Ringling Bros. circus.

When my first son turned two, I had a brainstorm (more like a power outage) for a Fiesta theme, including sombreros for all the toddlers, Spanish dancers, a huge buffet of Mexican food, and a candy-filled pinata. All I can say in retrospect, is that anyone who gives a bat to a 2-year-old, deserves whatever happens to their windows and parakeets.

How did a good idea go so far astray? Was it peer pressure? Guilt? One-upsmanship? Insanity? What makes parents abandon the donkey tails for donkey rides? When the first parent splurged on the first clown, did if forever change the expectations of our children? Can we never go back?

When I talk to preschoolers, they can scarcely remember their cake, let alone the marching band that popped out of it.

Still, the idea is irresistible. We picture the delighted expression on our child's face and we lose all sense of proportion (and solvency). And I can't promise that I won't do it again and pay a baker some ridiculous fee to make planet petit fours that revolve around a creme-filled sun cake. Or hire a chorus of dolphins, in straw hats, to soft-shoe across the lawn while kids fill a carnival "octopus" ride.

But I'll tell you what I'm planning for the next big hullabaloo: Nostalgia. We're going to play hide 'n' seek, musical chairs, and toss some bean bags. Who knows? Maybe we'll even get out the clothespins.

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