Well everyone, Ida Jane turned 3 last week, and with no small amount of fanfare and my usual off-the-cuff approach, we celebrated in style! Just in case hosting a toddler birthday party looms on your horizon, I’ve amassed my collective wisdom and experience on the subject. 

Several tips from the ultimate half-assed party host:

Invite as many people as you want. Don’t for even a second worry that your 2 bedroom urban domicile is perhaps not large enough to comfortably house 50 of your closest friends and relatives. 

Don’t plan any activities. Even though you’re expecting to accommodate a litter of rowdy toddlers, let the party unfold organically. Leave art supplies out because only good things can come of that decision.

Clean your house beforehand. Or better yet, throw a magnum hissy fit upon waking up the morning of the party, announce that if anyone in this family loves you, they’d better fire up the vacuum and turn the toilet back to it’s original white-ish color, and then promptly flee the scene to attend clown college. The reason it’s important to start the party with a clean home is so that when the party is over and there is frosting everywhere, you can let the dog lick it up without fear of too much dust and hair amassing in her guts. The last thing you need in the aftermath is an unexpected trip to the vet.

Make your own cake! Store-bought cakes are for people with spare bathtubs full of money and without the courage of their convictions. Since neither of those things are true about you, simply pour two boxes of cake mix into the pan that you usually reserve for roasting turkeys (yes, that’s plural and it’s a story for another time), and realize once it’s been in the oven for an epoch that you forgot to grease that sonofabitch. In the case that the birthday toddler has requested a moon cake (because maybe you’re a masochistic dumbass and asked if birthdaytot wanted her cake in any particular style), put some of the cake mix into a (fingers-crossed) oven-safe bowl because the thought pops into your mind, “Oh hey! The moon is round!” Do all of this without a clear plan as to how to assemble this creation. Once you’ve put the cake together and made peace with the fact that it does not fulfill the promise of “moon cake”, slather it in icing and concentrate like a motherfucker while you use frosting in a can to spell “HAPPY BIRTHDAY YOURKID’SNAME!” You did it! Promise yourself a treat the next time you go to Target. 

Rather than carefully planning the menu, wait until the day before the party, skip lunch, and then visit Trader Joes mid-afternoon with your exhausted toddler in tow. Everything will sound delicious and you know what? Your hunger + your child’s massive and frequent tantrums = you’re going to make some unexpected choices. Who says deli ham and off-brand nutella don’t make a delicious crostini?  Wrap that mini-meatball in seaweed with a dollop of lemon curd! Get creative and trust your instincts. Your guests will appreciate your willingness to push boundaries and incorporate previously underutilized condiments. Don’t forget to let the cranky toddler push her own tiny cart, repeatedly jamming it into your achilles tendon! Fun!

Even though you have knowingly invited your dearest friends and family to this insane event, act like it just kind of happened to you – like you are as baffled as they are by the number of people, strangeness of cuisine, and the sudden realization that there is now what appears to be a magenta toddler handprint on the back of somebody’s pants. You’re all in this together and there is no reason that as the hostess, you should feel any sense of responsibility.

Serve alcohol. To the grown-ups. Duh. 

Take a minute to look around and realize that if it takes a village to raise a child, you’d choose this one again in a heartbeat. Give thanks for your people and the way they love your kid. Give thanks for the fact that they still don’t seem to be catching wise to your shenanigans. Or maybe they know all about you, and keep showing up anyway. Give thanks for your unbelievably good luck in finding community. 

And with that, dear readers, I’ve covered pretty much everything I know about throwing a festively chaotic rager for your toddler! Stay tuned for the follow up post “Thank you notes!” In, let’s say, 2 months. 

Addendum: Did any other Pluck readers catch the story in the September edition of Martha Stewart Living on throwing a birthday luncheon for a 1 year old? Did you also snort orange juice all over the keyboard of your laptop? I believe my husband and I celebrated Ida’s first birthday over a hot-and-ready pizza and some fine Charles Shaw wine while taking turns trying to get the birthday girl to go (the fuck) to sleep. To each their own, but if anyone out there is considering hand-crafting earth-toned mini marzipan animals while caring for a baby, I’m going to stage an intervention. Incidentally, this intervention will bear considerable resemblance to Ida’s first birthday, but with (hopefully) less screaming. 

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