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.