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Thursday, April 24th, 2014
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Since my older son’s fifth birthday party was held last weekend, I find it appropriate to discuss exactly what goes into planning, and ultimately executing a child’s birthday party. Now, I know plenty of parents who will scoff at this and ask, “Why bother stressing over a kid’s birthday?” Well, the short answer is because stress is in my blood. The remainder of this blog is the long answer.
Planning a birthday celebration for an adult is fairly simple. You pick a date, you pick a place, you send a mass text, and whoever is around shows up for a drink. And generally speaking, there’s very little stress (if any at all) and plenty of alcohol involved.
So, about that kid’s party…
The very first thing to consider is theme. As in, which animated character makes your child cry the hardest when pried out of his or her hands? For my son, this was undoubtedly superheroes. Batman, Incredible Hulk, Spiderman, Iron Man. You name it. He’s obsessed with it. Sure, he’s never actually seen any of them on television (or even the comics). But why should that insignificant detail deter him from infatuation? Regardless of what you choose, though, the inevitable theme ends up being “parents spend an obscene amount of money that their child will never fully appreciate.”
So for my son’s party, my overly driven wife decided to make HOMEMADE SUPERHERO CAPES AND MASKS as party favors. In a way, I was impressed by her determination. In another way, it felt like going swimming with cinderblocks tied to each ankle. Ambitious, yet not entirely desirable if you’re already having trouble keeping your head above water.
I wish I’d put half the effort into college that my wife puts into party favors.
The next thing to consider, naturally, is the date the party will take place. Choosing the date closest to the actual birthday of your child is ideal, but not always feasible. What if your child’s birthday coincides with Labor Day weekend, or the birthday of another child in your kid’s class, or the anniversary of Titanic’s sinking? Ultimately, you’re either the type of person who says “screw it” and books your party the date you want it, or the type to play nice and make sure you’re not stepping on feet. No matter how hard I resist, I typically fall into the latter category. I just refuse to touch anyone’s feet.
Choosing the location and party package (assuming this isn’t happening in your backyard) quickly turns into a game of “Which business owner is trying to screw me the hardest?” There will be the basic party package, which they’ll actually title “Basic Party Package” to make you feel like a heartless cretin selecting it. This package typically includes six party guests, 30 minutes of jump-rope, and maybe use of paper goods and plasticware. The basic package is the party equivalent of ordering the 8 GB iPhone. So, ultimately, because you’re having more than six kids at the party, you’re ordering the Jumbo Kid Orgasm Package that costs roughly the same amount as your mortgage payment. But that includes cleanup, saving you the trouble of taking paper plates and napkins and tossing them into a trash bin. So, there’s that.
Then, reluctantly, comes the creation of the invite list. And make no mistake; no adult wants their kid to be on that list. There’s no alcohol, there’s little refuge from their kids, and there’s a strong likelihood that they’ll have that party hat elastic band snapped onto their face. This may explain why we invited 32 kids to my son’s party and a whopping seven replied by the RSVP date. You would think we were asking them to sign up to be a foster family for a homeless groundhog with the hollowness that encompassed our phones and email inboxes. Add on the fact that we mistakenly invited his entire class, and we were met with a whole sh*tload of indifference. For potential ideas on how to quell this RSVP issue, check out this recent article.
Once the date, location, invite list, theme, and alcohol to be consumed afterwards is all laid out, it’s time to “execute the party.” So you cart the balloons, cake, party favors, and every stimulant imaginable to the party place. And you start to realize that holding a child’s birthday party is not unlike having a wedding. First of all, there is virtually no socialization (for you) at all. You’ll greet people as they walk in the door, mindlessly shout “thanks!” as they’re leaving, and practically nothing in between. You’re too busy taking and posing for pictures. You’re too busy documenting who gave which gift so you can mention it in the “thank you” card later. You’re too busy ensuring every soul in the building is happy, eating and hydrated…except for you. And that’s when you decide that your child’s next birthday will be at the Outback.
My task the night before the party was turning Poland Spring into “Super Water”
But there’s something intrinsically important that happens during your child’s party. There’s a moment when the music is colliding with your relentless thoughts, when your spouse is anxiously asking you where you left the camera and you feel the sweat start to bleed through your shirt fabric, when you see your child absorbing every stimulating element surrounding him. And he’s so incredibly happy that you can’t help but smile through the chaos. Because you know, despite the price tag, your sweat is worth his joy.
Another thing that was actually worth it? This cooler than cool superhero cake.
Yes, the fist is edible. Yes, I ate the fingernails.
Alternatively, if in that moment you don’t see your child exuberantly smiling, at the very least you’ve brushed up on your project management skills.
Thanks for reading, and please join the conversation by adding a comment below, checking out my Facebook, or following me on Twitter. And if anyone in the New Jersey area wants the number of the cake creator, drop me a line.
Get started planning the perfect birthday party for your little one using our Birthday Party Planner!
* Balloon photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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batman, birthday, incredible hulk, iphone, iron man, kids, outback, parenthood, parenting, party, spiderman, superheroes, superman | Categories:
Friday, January 10th, 2014
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Before I begin, I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who embraced my writing in 2013. Whether I made you laugh, cry, or think a bit deeper, I absolutely loved hearing from each of you with reactions and contributions to the conversations that started here in this blog. While I inch closer to the finish line in the writing of my book, I dream of big things, but I already feel like I’ve achieved quite a bit being an extended member of the Parents Magazine family. So, thank you. And with that, onto the blog…
I’ve written about my Sunday experiences before. Remember the judgmental lady behind me in church who kept grunting and rolling her eyes at my kids? Well, she’s not the only problem. I mean, she definitely still sucks mightily, but there’s more. It all stems from an overarching mentality that children should be seen and not heard in public. And, of course, this intolerance is almost always perpetrated by people who don’t have their own children (and frankly, I’m glad they don’t). It’s everywhere, and most of the time, I totally get why people are annoyed by loud, annoying children. But there’s a difference between a kid who’s being a bratty, impossible cretin and one who is crying for help because they’re trapped in a situation where they aren’t comfortable. To help illustrate the latter, a church official (who I can only guess has plenty of children) wrote this sign and posted it in the Cry Room (separate room in the back of church) where I attend mass most Sundays…
Let’s take this passive aggressive masterpiece one line at a time…
Reserved for the exclusive use of families with small children
Instantly, it becomes obvious that, like any rule, if it is not enforced, people will liberally crap all over it. There are adult couples in their 20s, 40s, and 70s sitting among us. Many of them have beards. None have kids. Now, it’s possible that some of them have a legitimate reason for breaking these “rules,” but the majority of them are just lazy idiots, I’d bet.
Food and drinks do not belong in church. Baby bottles are an exception.
Speaking grammatically, saying, “Please do not bring food or drinks into church,” is a more pleasant way of phrasing this. And while I agree that older children should be able to make it an hour without imbibing, try explaining to an 18-month-old (that’s off the bottle) that he can’t eat a snack and ALSO has to sit completely still. If only I had something to entertain him. Which leads me to…
Crayons, markers and noisy destructive toys should be left at home.
What?! Okay, I can get behind the banning of noisy, destructive toys. Maybe even markers. But crayons?! What better way to keep a kid quiet than dropping a coloring book in front of him? Do you really expect my son to be more enthralled by your homily about “sinning” (a concept he’s good at committing but not understanding) than with coloring a picture of Batman?! Give me a f***ing break. This is Batman we’re talking about.
Participation in singing and responding during mass is encouraged.
Bravo. This is the only part of the sign that feels completely positive. Even if there’s absolutely no bloody chance in hell that you’re getting a human under the age of 13 to sing anything that wasn’t originally sung by a cartoon character.
I will tackle the last stanza one sentence at a time…
Even though you are not in the main church, your mass can be as spiritual as possible.
As spiritual as possible. You mean while I’m running after my toddler, begging him not to eat the M&M he found on the floor, apologizing to the stranger whose foot he just stepped on, explaining for the 18th time that he isn’t allowed to have a juice box, threatening to throw our television out the window if they don’t shape up….so at what point does the spirituality begin, father?
Children learn proper attitudes from your example and guidance.
Take this, all of you, and eat it. For this is the most pretentious statement you will ever read.
Let’s all work together to make our weekly worship special.
That is a fantastic idea. Finally, we’re on the same page! So, I’ll hold the kids’ jackets while you make sure they sit still and shut up for the next hour. Since we’re “working together” and all…
I know, I know. I can already see the comments coming in asking why I bother to bring my kids out in the first place if it’s such a nuisance. And truthfully, I probably don’t have an answer that will satisfy you. But while taking the kids might be counterproductive, we’re at least making an effort to keep the career going as we’ve recently moved on to a new church. The atmosphere is friendlier, the people haven’t scoffed at us (yet) and they do this really cool thing at the start of mass where they ask you to introduce yourself to someone sitting near you that you haven’t met before. Sure, it’s corporate ice-breaker 101, but it beats the hell out of telling my kids Batman must remain colorless (and sad).
Think I’m crossing a line? Feel the same way? I want to hear about it. Enter a comment below. Or tweet me @JoeDeProspero with thoughts.
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Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
From the moment we’re conceived, we’re instantly identified and divided according to our gender. If the sonogram shows a penis, blue blankets are dutifully draped upon rocking chairs, the quickest route to the local Boys & Girls Club researched and mentally stored for later. If the sonogram lacks a penis, baby shower attendees will come equipped with (and ready to unleash at a moment’s notice) any shade of pink that exists as of this typing. These two paths are typically followed like GPS directions when you’re in the bad part of town: You don’t dare try to “do it your own way” for fear of serious repercussions.
And we’re all guilty of “genderizing” someone, as I like to call it. I’ve certainly done it. In fact, my wife and I just picked up a flowery dress and a doll for my soon-to-be 2-year-old niece’s birthday party. I mean, it would be rude if I showed up with a Matchbox car and a whiffle ball bat, right? That’s most definitely how I’d feel walking into the party. And I’m not saying giving a girl a doll or a boy a toy car is a bad thing. But where I do have a problem is when it goes beyond gift-giving and becomes a close-minded, limiting philosophy about what our children should be exposed to and where their interests should or shouldn’t lie.
While I see myself as far from the perfect parent, this is one area where I feel like I’m doing the right thing- giving my kids the freedom to explore their surroundings and establish their “favorite things” independent of my input and potentially misleading influence. After all, who am I to impede their happiness?
Well, regardless of the child’s contentment, I’ve known an embarrassing amount of people who force their preconceived theories on their kids quite liberally.
“Put down that doll. It’s for girls.”
“Isabella, you can’t be Batman for Halloween. Only boys can be Batman.”
It happens everywhere, and you’ve seen it happen, too. I think we’re far too quick to label a toy as “for girls” or “for boys” when, in reality, there is very little actual difference between the two. And really, when I think of the toys I “borrowed” from my sister growing up, many of them would raise an eyebrow with the traditionalists out there (not to mention my undying affinity for The Golden Girls). Let’s go through them, one by one, so maybe we can determine what’s so “girly” about them.
Barbies: Growing up with one sibling, a sister, getting intimately acquainted with Barbie was inevitable. And like any kid (girl or not), I thoroughly enjoyed playing make believe. And in fact, Barbie was where I first realized my fascination with taking women’s clothes off! Not much “girly” about that.
Kitchen: Some of the most famous chefs in the world are men! And I’m sure they started by making their moms fake blueberry pies in their fake oven.
Baby Stroller: For whatever reason, pushing a stroller is always seen as a feminine act. But any father will tell you that we spend just as much time behind a stroller than behind a grill.
Dolls: Perhaps the most traditionally girly toy of all. And you’ll almost never see a boy given this as a gift. But I’ve got news for all you traditionalists out there. Boys play with dolls all the time. We might call them “action figures,” but they’re dolls. They are toys designed to appear like a living thing, allowing children to create fictional scenarios and fantasize about them being real. They’re dolls. Even if they’re wearing a helmet and carrying a gun.
The color pink or purple: I’m not necessarily suggesting that you adorn your sons in hot pink Juicy sweatpants, but my 4-year-old came home from camp the other day and grumbled that another kid told him “purple is for girls.” It should be noted that purple is Antonio’s favorite color and has been at least since he’s been able to speak. I was infinitely proud when he followed that up with, “But it doesn’t matter.” He’d heard that phrase from my wife. And that’s exactly the kind of thinking I want to instill in my sons. I firmly believe that allowing children to be themselves instead of forcing them to be like everyone else yields a happy kid who won’t resent his/her parents for stifling their creativity.
This leads me to a post I recently came across on the NFL Facebook page. It was a photo of a woman, donned in standard referee stripes, with two simple words: Coming Soon? It was about Sarah Thomas, who is in line to become the NFL’s first ever full-time female referee this season. I’m a massive NFL fan, but I knew immediately that the comment thread would include a significant dose of close-mindedness (read: barely literate ignoramuses). However, even I was surprised by what I saw.
Since I was seeing exponentially more of the top two comments than of the bottom two, I decided to chime in and have my voice be heard.
Turns out I wasn’t alone. As of this screen-grab, 465 other NFL fans agreed. But some…did not.
What I’ve highlighted above is exactly the type of ignorance I never want my sons to exhibit. And yes, my “brilliant observation” comment was strictly sarcastic. Not that its recipient was aware of that.
Clearly, not every football fan is prepared for female involvement in their male-dominated game of choice. But maybe, just maybe, they’d be a little bit more prepared if they were raised to retain the open-mindedness they were born with, encouraged and not discouraged to try new things, and instilled within them respect for the opposite sex.
If you disagree, I’m sorry to hear that. But as a parent, I feel that it’s my responsibility to enable my kids’ happiness, not restrict it.
Thoughts? Rebuttals? Enter them by adding a comment below!
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batman, dolls, facebook, female ref, football, gender roles, golden girls, joe deprospero, nfl, parenting, sarah thomas, sexism, toys | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Joe DeProspero