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Listen To The Ugly Lady

September 28, 2010

These were the rules: no eating or drinking; no running; no shouting; no touching anyone else; and no going anywhere unless you’re told to go there. Was it military training? Police Line-up? Fight Club? Nope – it was an 8-year-old’s birthday party, at a gymnastics centre, and the absurdity of it was hilarious.

I entered the building (as big as a Costco) with my son to find it deserted aside from the creepy-looking proprietress and her tumbling minions. The birthday girl and her other guests – 10 of us in total – soon arrived and were told the rules.

My son looked back and gave me a death stare: when he was initially invited, he’d asked if it would be like movement class at school (they don’t do gym at the hippie school), or if he’d be allowed to run all over the place. I’d assured him that he could go crazy once we got there (have you been to those indoor playgrounds? It’s like Lord of the Flies in a bouncy castle…). Alas, I was mistaken.

As more rules were laid out, I shared a look of disbelief with the other parents: surely these kids weren’t expected to be at a birthday party, at a gymnastics club, and not run? Maybe a slow trot?

The kids slowly moved from station to station, taking turns jumping on a trampoline (five bounces each), walking backwards on a balance beam (“SLOW DOWN!”) and hoisting themselves on an uneven bar (not spinning, of course – just pulling themselves up and then dropping back to the ground).

I’m not sure the kids were having much fun, but we parents had a blast; despite being ordered to stay. on. the. bench. One of the mothers (a good friend of mine) brought her 2-year-old son (one of her four children) to the party and, because any kids with three older siblings basically raise themselves, she was content to let him clamber up the pre-schooler apparatus that sat unused about 10-feet away from us.

This flagrant disregard of the rule #38 (“ALL CHILDREN UNDER AGE 3 MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY AN ADULT”) almost caused Creepy Lady to have an aneurysm. My friend, who is a medical doctor from Mexico and thinks our preoccupation with child safety is ridiculous, muttered some choice phrases in Spanish before dragging her son from the padded area to play near the parents’ bench. On the cement floor.

We finally entered the pizza/cake portion of the party and that’s when things got seriously weird. The ‘party room’ had a couple of limp streamers hanging on the wall along with a Happy Birthday banner from the dollar store. The kids were all given one juice box and a piece of pizza. Additional pieces could be had only after they consumed some raw vegetables from a platter. That got me my second death stare.

Before the cake was brought out, I noticed one of the minions fiddling with the birthday banner. I assumed it had come loose and she was fixing it, but no: she was taking it down. Before the cake was even brought out. The kids devoured their cake unaware that the party was being torn down around them and the sugar, combined with the onset of dehydration from being offered one juice box after an hour of moderate calisthenics, made everyone a bit manic.

This proved to be too much for my Spanish friend, who started talking like Speedy Gonzales to her kids, and also for Creepy Lady, who began disassembling one of the folding tables. While the birthday girl opened her presents. Then she began stacking chairs, throwing things like purses and jackets on the floor.

Through all of this, my fellow parents and I were in full-blown hysterics and we soon high-tailed it out of there, promising to meet up at our kids’ school so they could, you know, run. And yell. And, like, touch each other on the arm.

The kids didn’t really seem to notice and afterwards my son said he’d had a great time at the party, which of course was the most important thing. I asked my Spanish friend what she’d said in the room towards the end and her answer pretty much summed up the experience for the parents: “I just told my them to do whatever the ugly lady said because she was crazy, but soon we’d be able to leave and we’d go somewhere normal.”

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Now drop and give me 20 cartwheels!"

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2010 8:24 am

    I love your friend… like, a lot.

    • September 28, 2010 9:07 am

      Me too 🙂

      We may be hippies, but we’re feisty!

      • marinasleeps permalink
        September 28, 2010 11:19 am

        Awesome! Hippies that can say no and put their foot down!

  2. September 28, 2010 9:37 am

    OMG… I’m at a loss for words. Not allowed to run at a gymnastics center? Going around to stations at a birthday party and told what to do and often to do it?

    Perhaps next time they will require knee pads and helmets.

    A good thing it was for 8 year olds. My son would’ve caused the lady to stroke….

    Glad the kids had fun even though they had to go to a playground to actually burn off that energy.

    • September 29, 2010 10:53 am

      My friends loved reliving it in the blog…said it was a very good retelling of the story (i.e. no embellishments required!)

  3. September 28, 2010 10:19 am

    Eeek! What kind of party was this?!?! I didn’t realize that the Fun Police needed to be at a child’s birthday.

    • September 29, 2010 10:54 am

      It’s true – the fun police had our kids in lock down…classic!

  4. September 28, 2010 10:34 am

    Your friend sounds great. I often wonder about adults who work in kid-oriented industries or places, but who either don’t get or don’t like kids.

  5. September 28, 2010 10:50 am

    WOW kids not supposed to behave like..well…kids?????? Good grief.

  6. September 28, 2010 11:13 am

    UGH! How painful. And yes, I love your friend too!

  7. September 28, 2010 11:58 am

    This is classic. I love the way y’all kept your sense of humor throughout the shindig too. Did the kids have any fun? I’m vehemently against vegetables at birthday parties…

    Call me old school, but this just reinforces my idea that these types of overly planned (and usually expensive!) parties are usually fun for … none.

    I’m much more of a low-key, handmade, cookout in the backyard, big cake, kids running around, trashing the house and pulling the tails of my dogs kind of birthday party mama. I think. (And can I have the football game on TV too? And some cocktails and yummy snacks for the mommies, while the dads watch all the kids? Isn’t it really all about me??!)

    Alas, I’m sure my son will want an all out Elmo-Thomas-Mickey-Superman-bouncy house dinosaur explosion extravaganza at the newest hip local kids joint here. {Gulp}.

    Fortunately I have a few more years before I have to worry about this. I just thank my stars that I won’t have to have a …{double gulp} Hannah Montana party {shudder!}

    • September 29, 2010 10:56 am

      Hee – we’ve been down that road ourselves: magician; bouncy castle; fun farm…to this day, the best one was last year when we had people gather at a park and just let them play…

      ps I will blow my brains out if my girl wants HM!

  8. September 28, 2010 11:59 am

    I would have been mortified if I was the mother who planned that party. And furious if I’d been the mother who PAID for that party. I understand safety and liability and everything but come on! Put up a sign that says you aren’t responsible for injury and call it a day.

    And force feeding raw vegetables at a birthday party? What is this? North Korea?

    Maybe if they let the kids run around a little and jump more than 5 times they wouldn’t have to worry so much about caloric intake. Just a thought.

  9. September 28, 2010 2:25 pm

    I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get my daughter interested into learning to speak Spanish (her fathers first language). Recently I resorted to a tactic I’m a bit horrified by. One of her close friends speaks Spanish and I told my daughter if she learned to speak it a bit more her and her friend could have conversations that no one around them would understand. She bought it hook, line and sinker!

  10. Andrea Bitner permalink
    September 28, 2010 8:36 pm

    Well after have lived it, reading this is priceless, I nearly pee my pants, and yess it is wonderful to actually say something without being noticed by the “ugly lady” jajajaja, what a party, love the picture, that pretty much says it all.

  11. The Perfectly Imperfect One permalink
    September 28, 2010 11:58 pm

    Lol awesome!

  12. September 29, 2010 12:33 am

    It’s like “Birthdays With Bella Karolyi!” Seriously. It’s like you were in the Soviet Union training for gold medal fun. How utterly depressing. But kids are so oblivious, aren’t they? Thank god you defected and made it to a westernized playground.

  13. September 29, 2010 3:23 pm

    Maybe ugly lady had a hot date to get to? Nevermind, that would explain the speedy takedown but not the crappy veggie platter…

  14. September 29, 2010 9:38 pm

    snicker snicker ugly lady snicker. You must realize that there was definitely something shady going on at that place after hours…maybe they were looking for “new recruits” and the no fun zone was a test to weed out the weak.

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