Against my better judgment, I volunteered to be a party mom for Sunshine’s class Halloween party. The first indication I had that this event was Not Your Mother’s Halloween Party was the email from the “Party Planning Committee Chair,” notifying me that I was to attend the Official Halloween Party Planning Meeting in the Cafeteria on Some Date I Don’t Remember Because I Have Three Kids.
Now, let me preface this whole thing with a little reminiscence. Do you remember classroom Halloween parties in the 80s? You wore your costume to school. A basic Level 1 costume was some sort of polyester getup your parents bought at Walgreens. It included a mask with tiny slits to see and even tinier slits to breathe. Level 2 involved full face paint, probably containing some variety of carcinogens, and possibly fake teeth. Level 3, the Gold Level, was the Homemade By Moms Who Could Actually Sew costume, the Costume That Also Involves an Elaborate Hairdo Sprayed with Rave or AquaNet, or the Costume Constructed from Cardboard and Spray Paint Made By a Dad with Engineering Skills. (There were also a few kids with “participation ribbon” costumes. You know, the ones who phoned it in with a “hobo” costume with a flannel shirt and a bandana on a stick, or a “bum” costume with a trash bag with holes cut out for the arm and neck holes.) But I digress. At your typical 80s Halloween party, there was some candy, donated by generous parents or broke teachers. You may have sat at your desk and eaten candy, and may have done a Halloween-themed crossword or word search (run off on the Ditto machine, of course). And then you went home and Trick or Treated without your parents, after dark, then came home and ate yourself into a candy coma. Ah, the memories!
But I digress. Back to the Party Planning Meeting. The cafeteria was organized with each group of classroom moms at their own table. Our table was set with a folder containing several documents outlining the party planning policies and procedures. Sunshine’s class had 5 moms signed up for the party planning committee. Me, Samantha, Danielle, Angela, and Becky. After waiting 10 minutes past the Official Start Time of the meeting, Becky was a no-show, so the rest of us plowed ahead. The instructions in our folder told us that the party would be 2 hours long. The children are not allowed to wear their costumes to school, of course. Back in the 80s, before No Child Left Untested, we didn’t know how distracting those padded He-Man chests and pointy witch hats were. Now we know better, so we make the children change into their costumes at school. So, 15 minutes for getting dressed. 30 minutes for the Costume Parade around the track outside. Which leaves one hour, 15 minutes left, to be divided into 15 minute time slots, all of which need to be detailed on the Party Schedule Sheet, which must be approved in advance by the teacher.
The first 15-minute time slot is obviously devoted to the Nutritious Snack That Isn’t Candy. Our committee chose an oh-so-Pinterest-worthy snack: Banana “ghosts” with tangerine “pumpkins,” a whimsical and healthy morsel found on a cooking website for moms with too much time on their hands (See below.) The ghosts and pumpkins will be served with a side of pretzels. The remaining four 15-minute time slots are devoted to “stations,” in which the kids will participate in Festive Themed Activities. Our stations include a Pumpkin Ring Toss (good for building hand-eye coordination), a Cauldron Game (sensory activity!), and a toilet paper mummy game (look at those gross motor skills!). I will be at the helm of the craft station.
Now, I am not crafty by any stretch of the imagination. Crafty moms are able to bring in a box of toilet paper rolls (which they are ALWAYS saving JUST IN CASE a craft opportunity should arise), bottle caps, and glue dots and have the kids create 3-story haunted houses. Uncrafty moms such as myself go on Oriental Trading (and for log’s sake, WHEN is this company going to change it’s name to something less racist?), spend $50, and end up with a bunch of shit for the kids to string into necklaces. But hey, fine motor skill development!
So we fill out our Party Schedule Sheet, plus our Snack Sheet which details all food being served, to cross-reference with any possible food allergies.
Then there is the list of supplies. I was in charge of creating the supply donation list on VolunteerSpot, a completely ingenious website designed to guilt parents into donating stuff to their kids’ classrooms. This website is fantastic. You input the specific supplies and quantities you need for the party. In our case, the list includes things like “Set of 30 small plastic Halloween-themed toys–3 quantity” and “24 pack mini bottled water–2 quantity.” And–here is the genius part–the list gets emailed to all the parents, and when they log on, they can see what needs to be donated, and also who donated what. So what happens is, Billy’s mom will log on and see that Sally’s mom has already signed up for 2 sets of party favors. Not to be outdone, Billy’s mom will sign up to donate all the paper goods. I’ve often logged onto the site and had the following conversation with myself: “I hope I can donate the plates and napkins. Oh damn, Nicole’s mom got those already, that cow. Alright, how about I do a bag of chocolate chips. Wait, Marissa’s mom is sending in two sets of favors, I can’t JUST do a bag of chocolate chips, I’ll look like an asshole. Okay, chocolate chips, and two sets of favors…” and so on.
One week after the meeting: The official party schedule is approved by the teacher. A crisis arises: one of the children is gluten-intolerant. Gluten-free pretzels are added to the supply list.
October 25, 6 days before the party. Sunshine and I do a test run of the craft. The plastic stretchy cord I ordered doesn’t tie into knots. I add a trip to the craft store onto my to-do list.
October 29, two days before the party. Samantha sends the group an email. “Finally heard from Becky. Turns out she just had a baby, so she won’t be able to make it, but she’ll send in some treats.” Well, what the fuck, Becky? Party committee sign-ups were in September. Did being 8 months pregnant somehow slip your mind when you were signing up for an event taking place on October 31st? And “treats”? Those aren’t preapproved, Becky. Get it together. I respond to the group, asking who is going to cover the pumpkin ring toss. *crickets*
October 30, day before the party. I’m doing the craft station. Danielle wants to run the TP mummy station. Samantha is all over the Cauldron game. I sent an email to the group. “Still looking for someone to do the pumpkin ring toss.” No reply. Earth to Angela! Hellooooo, Angela! If the kids end up standing there, woefully unoccupied and unstimulated for 15 full minutes, THAT SHIT’S ON YOU, ANGELA.
Tomorrow it all goes down. I will show up wearing an embarrassingly Oriental-Trading-Style crafted necklace, box of supplies in tow. There will be Mirth. There may even be Merriment. Somebody will forget to donate their assigned supplies. Somebody else will send in overly ambitious and show-offy goody bags so they can claim their Mother of the Year trophy. And at the end, we battle-worn Party Moms will go home, pop a Xanax, sigh a little for the lost Halloweens of our youths, and comfort-eat a few fun-size Snickers before heading out to Trick or Treat with our broods.
And then it will be time for people to sign up for the Winter Holiday Party. I expect you to pull your weight this time, Becky.