Introducing ‘Morristown Mama Drama’! This week: The Birthday Party Matrix

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Editor’s note: Welcome to Morristown Mama Drama, a periodic column about… let’s let our columnists tell you:

Morristown Mama Drama is two Morris County moms with two different perspectives– one from the land of Mardi Gras (New Orleans, LA) and one from the land of WaWa (Bucks County, PA)–sharing insights and tips from the trenches. We met in Morristown when our oldest kids were 6 months old and have been navigating this delightful, and sometimes harrowing, journey together ever since. Check out our latest escapades and local recommendations right here on Morristown Green.

The Birthday Party Matrix

From WaWa Mom:

Birthday parties start to really become a thing when your child hits pre-school — 2 to 3 years old. Before then you can get away with family and maybe a couple of your friends with similar-aged kids. Once there is a class in the mix, this birthday thing gets real.

From Mardi Gras Mom:

I love birthday parties—I don’t have to pay for a babysitter and don’t have to come up with a Saturday afternoon activity–it’s like a play date where you don’t have to do much and get to eat pizza and a cupcake (guilt free because, it’s de rigueur). If there are mimosas at the brunch party, all the better.

Here are some of the typical questions and issues we’ve dealt with and conclusions we have come to:

Guests: Who goes?

Mama Drama birthday cakeMardi: My husband has gone to one party in nearly four years. Super dads show up, and I’m always impressed. But don’t feel bad if yours would rather go for a run. Mine won’t be there. With his limited weekend time, he wants to sit on the couch for five blessed moments of peace, preferably in an empty house.

WaWa: You should ask if siblings are allowed. Once the kids are over one year old, and especially if it’s at a venue where the host is paying per head.

Gifts: What and How much?

WaWa: I usually spend about $35-$40 on gifts for friends and classmates. I’ll try to pay attention on playdates to what a child plays with – if they always go for a certain toy or game when they are at my house, I’ll make a mental note to get that when their birthday comes around. A little observation goes a long way in giving a thoughtful gift – and one that will actually get used.

Mardi: I usually spend $24.55 from Teaching Room because so many of the Melissa and Doug toys are about that much. I will add on a smaller gift like a book. Learning Express seems to be the “go-to” place because yes they gift wrap but also you don’t need a receipt — which is yet another thing for me to lose. Century 21 or TJMaxx works too because you can get something nice but discounted. Only thing is I usually don’t do a receipt when I go the discount route, though there’s no shame in it. Another gift idea is to go with the theme of the invitation. Recently, my daughter received a Doc McStuffins invitation, so we did a Doc McStuffins umbrella and game. We love themed parties. We have also started making homemade cards, which can save you a good $3. I never know what to do with cards; they usually end up in the recycle bin.

When to Skip a Gift?

WaWa: If a friend has a birthday but no party, I think it’s fair to assume they do not expect a gift.

If you’re invited to a party but can’t go then it depends on the relationship. Is this party you can’t go to for the kid who kicks your kid out of the sandbox with the mother who won’t make eye contact at pickup? Skip the gift — that was a courtesy “whole class” invite anyway. Is it for your child’s best buddy who plays at your house all the time and you wish you could go but you’ll be out of town? Get them a little something and give it to them next time they come over.

Re-gift: Can you pull it off?

Mardi: I’d have to find the original gift first and remember who gave it to me, which won’t happen, so I rarely re-gift.

Mama Drama birthday giraffeWaWa: Yes. Just make sure the world the gift came from won’t ever collide with the world the gift goes to. In-law gave you some Melissa and Doug wood-and-Velcro concoction that you already have? Give it to the little girl from swimming whose last name you don’t know but whose party you’ll attend because siblings are welcome and it’s at Diamond Gymnastics so a) you can make a Costco run on your way home and b) the kids will be worn out so you can put them to bed early and catch up on last Sunday’s HBO shows that you couldn’t find the time or energy to watch all week. Yeah, give to her. She’ll love it.  

If the original giver notices its absence in your house, you tell them that’s a special “Grandma’s house” toy. Unless that giver is your sister, then just suck it up and shove it in a corner.

Clean up: Do you need to help

WaWa: Nice, but not necessary. I don’t expect others to help me. I rarely remember to clean up when I’m getting my kids ready to go.

Mardi: People who help clean up at the end = Divine.

Local tip: We both get most of our gifts at The Teaching Room here in town. Because they have a great selection and we like to support local businesses – but mostly because they’ll wrap it for you, and you don’t need a receipt!

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