Of birthdays and bedlam


IF YOU ARE the parent of a young child, here is a novel idea for your kid's next birthday party.

Instead of having the party at McDonald's or the bowling alley or Chuck E. Cheese's, where you have to deal with that stupid mechanical mouse and his goofy friends, maybe your child could have the party in his or her own home!

Now, I know what you're thinking.

You're thinking: This is too far out. This guy has flipped his lid. What kind of a world do we live in when some newspaper hack with an obvious drinking problem is allowed a fifth of Wild Turkey and access to a word processor, so he can spew forth any insane idea that pops into his whiskey-soaked brain?

Go ahead and scoff. I can handle it. They laughed at Jonas Salk, too. He mentioned a polio vaccine at the lab one day and six assistants fell down in the aisles with tears streaming down their faces. It's the price you pay for being a visionary, I guess.

Anyway, that's my idea. Something different: Have the birthday party at home.

Now here's another one. Instead of inviting your child's entire second grade class, or each and every member of the junior swim team, how about inviting just five or six close friends?

Sure, it cuts down on the number of presents the little bra. . . er, your child will receive. But these would be children your child really enjoys being around. Plus, he or she would be less likely to stab one of these little friends with a plastic fork once everyone gets wired on chocolate cake and ice cream and starts flying around the room.

As far as entertainment at this party is concerned, well, here's my thinking on that.

Instead of handing each kid two bucks and telling them to go play the video games somewhere for an hour, the kids could all play something together such as, oh, "Pin the Tail on the Donkey."

I know, I know . . . pin the what on the what?

"Pin the Tail on the Donkey." It's this game where you blindfold each little kid one at a time and spin him around and . . . aw, never mind. I don't want to get into the whole thing here.

What's neat, at least to me, is that it doesn't involve lasers or numchucks or Nintendo. I know a lot of other neat games, too, like "Red Light, Green Light" and "Simon Says" and "Musical Chairs."

Sure, they might not be "hip." But little kids still enjoy them. Or so I hear.

(By the way, it probably goes without saying that we're not talking about "theme" birthday parties here. You know the ones. Ninja Turtle parties, where all the boys show up in their little karate uniforms with the headbands and garbage can lids and spend two hours trying to crush each other's windpipes. Or Barbie parties, where everyone dresses up like a little hooker with the heavy-duty mascara and lipstick and garish fashion accessories -- although minus the 36-inch bust line.

(God, I hate "theme" parties. Who was the deranged parent who first thought this up? What was this person thinking? You talk about a major breakdown in the thought process.)

Anyway, after a few spirited games of "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" or whatever, you might want to let the kids play on their own for a while. Everything at a birthday party doesn't have to be structured. These kids can find ways to amuse themselves.

I'm not saying you let them wander out to the highway to check out the passing trucks, or play in the basement with your power tools and paint thinners. But they don't need parents hovering over them constantly to have a good time.

Even at these New Age birthday parties that take place in terrariums or the dolphin pool at Sea World or wherever, the highlight is when everyone sits down to sing "Happy Birthday" and eat cake and ice cream.

Here, the advantage to having the party in your own home becomes readily apparent. Because when the birthday boy or girl attempts to blow out the candles on the cake, and sends two or three still-lit candles skidding onto the lap of one of his little friends, who starts shrieking and overturns the table in his panic, your course of action is clear.

Quickly announce that the party is over. Ask the kids to wait outside until their parents pick them up.

Then bolt the doors. Pour yourself a good stiff drink.

Which, by the way, they don't serve at Chuck E. Cheese's.

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