I go to a lot of children's birthday parties. These parties are virtually identical. You go to a gym, you take off your kid's shoes, you hand your kid over to the 19-year-old girl making $6 an hour and wearing a bright red or blue shirt with the name of the gym on it (PLAY ZONE! GYMTASTIC! BALLS AND SHIT!), then you get the hell out of there to shop for liquor and come back 90 minutes later to retrieve your child. You get your hour and a half of quiet shopping time, and the birthday girl's parents get to pay $200 for the privilege of not having to clean up after 22 unruly children. No muss, no fuss. Unless there's candy in the goodie bag.
These parties are divided into two neat segments: playing and cake. The playing lasts an hour, and usually involves the birthday girl sitting in the middle of a dirty parachute and crying. The cake is scheduled to last half an hour but takes four minutes. I try to arrive just after the children have been served cake and the adults are being offered slices. That way, I get free food with a minimum amount of awkward conversation with other dads. Talking to other dads is always painful. "So ... like ... do you like football or anything?"
After cake time is over, you throw on your kid's shoes and you leave. But on the way out, you usually get a goodie bag. Now, parents who are ASSHOLES will put candy in the bag. And not just any candy. No, no. They choose whichever candy has the mostly densely packed sugary core. There's no subtle candy in there. There's nothing but Sour Patch Kids and Gobstoppers and bags of pure molasses. It's horrible. Your kid just ate six pounds of frosting roses, and now they're gonna eat this shit? YOU PEOPLE HAVE SOME NERVE. The party scheduling is already backward. It should be cake, THEN play, so that the kids burn off the sugar and throw up on the trampolines. Instead, the sugarkakke gets delayed until the very end, when you have to transport this fructose-addled beast home and deal with the consequences.
I took my kid to a birthday party once and then strapped her in the car for the ride home. But as I drove out onto the highway, I quickly realized that I hadn't done a thorough search and seizure of her goodie bag to make sure it was free of Pixy Stix and Tootsie Rolls and gumballs filled with concentrated grape jelly. By the time it hit me, the kid had already dumped her goodie bag out on the back seat, rifled through the goods like a goddamn looter, and found a Ring Pop the size of Peter King's head. She began eating it instantly, and emitting an evil cackle while she did. Did you know kids have an evil cackle? Oh, they do. Whenever they do something they know they aren't supposed to do, they laugh like a serial killer who just poisoned a town's drinking supply. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Once home, she went into full spazz mode and gave her brother a full hip check. The rest of the night was SHIT.
If you see someone giving out candy after a birthday party, you march right up to them and stab them in the heart with a cake knife. It ain't right. Instead, fill your goodie bag with any number of small Chinese toys that will give your child lead poisoning, like any responsible parent. Some examples:
• Finger traps
• Superballs, which you con confiscate the first time they huck one at your face
• Whistles, which you can tear from their little mouths the second they threaten to blow
• Pencils that you will never, ever sharpen and use. I have a drawer filled with 50,000 unsharpened goodie bag pencils.
• Stickers! Harmless, wonderful little stickers. Give your kid stickers and piece of blank paper and it's five minutes of blissful silence for you. Oh, look! You stuck all the stickers on the paper in a haphazard fashion! WELL DONE!
• Pencil sharpeners
• Plastic jewelry
• Toy cars
• Sachets of dried beef tongue
Anything that isn't made of sugar will do, basically. Heed these rules, or else taste the fucking thunder.
Kid photo by Zurijeta/Shutterstock