by Grettel Loney
Years ago, my stepdaughter was having our first kid swimming party. We’d agreed to way too many kids—approximately thirty 17-year-olds. They kept coming inside the kitchen to eat and going back outside to swim so that it looked like the kitchen was flooded. At one point I looked out back and multiple kids were hanging off the tree fort, and I had horrible visions of it crashing down. And it gets better—I was up in my bedroom, happened to look out the window, and I kid you not—one of the boys was riding a clown bike off the diving board and into the pool!
You’d think I would have never agreed to another party, but both my kids have had many over the years since, and thankfully I’ve learned what to and what not to do. So, whether you’ve had zero or many—I hope you can pick up a tip or two for hosting your next one.
Know your boundaries, starting with the number of invited guests.
For my kids’ birthday parties when they were younger, they were allowed to invite as many guests as the age they were turning. I was flexible by maybe one or two more max, and that worked well. The older they get, the more flexible you can be with that.
Communicate with the parents.
It’s easy to communicate with a group text for the parents of the younger kids. I have my daughter make the group to help. I confirm everyone has a ride to my house and back to theirs when there is carpooling involved. Once I had two kids with no plans to get home. It all worked out, but I had to wait 45 minutes for them to get picked up. I also like to send a fun group picture or two of the night.
Have a game plan for the few days leading up to the party.
I have done everything—cleaning, shopping, and decorating for birthday parties—all in one day, and trust me, that is no fun!
Don’t stress about a theme or decorations.
As my kids got older (middle school), I stopped that because I figured out they just don’t care about those details—they’re simply happy to be hanging out.
The food doesn’t have to cost a small fortune.
I’ve done the easiest thing before—order pizza—but I prefer to do a little more work and spend less money. Just a few days ago, my 18-year-old son had ten friends over. I kept the receipt after shopping for the night so I could figure out how much sandwiches, snacks and drinks cost. Everything I needed for the party was $33. I bought Hawaiian sweet rolls (4 per teen) and split them, added two types of cheese and forest ham, and drizzled Yum-yum sauce—a Japanese steak sauce found in the Asian section of grocery stores—on top. I heated them in the oven and voilà.
If it’s a bigger group of kids, I provide the meal and drinks, and then ask the parents to send a snack to share. Now that my son is older, he and his friends have coordinated what to bring to their Christmas party the past two years because they’ve wanted a nice sit-down dinner. (I know my limits!)
Things will happen. Go with the flow.
Last month for my daughter’s party our mower died the weekend before. I simply wrote a quick group text and told the parents my yard was looking like a jungle and why. I would have much preferred a beautifully manicured lawn, but what do you do?
Think about the rules you need to tell the kids before the party gets going.
I hate messes—so it’s not that I can enjoy hosting these parties because I don’t mind if my house gets destroyed. The rules are stated and enforced to avoid this, but more importantly, to keep the kids safe. The rules include where they should set all their stuff, where they can and cannot eat, and any outside rules (like no running around the pool or on the deck—slippery when wet!)
Last month my 13-year-old had a party on the last day of classes. She called me from school worried that drama was already starting because she’d invited 16 of her closest friends who included some friends not in “the squad.” I was so glad she’d called me. I told her not to worry, that I would talk to the kids before the party.
When I had all the kids together, I told them in a group that size, inevitably not everyone was besties with everyone. So I reminded them they were all there to have a good time, that I didn’t want to hear anyone talk badly about anyone because that would only hurt feelings. And so I implemented for the very first time the “No drama, no bad-talking” rule. The kids were so receptive—I think it empowered the ones that don’t like drama to be able to say, “Don’t break the rule!” when they would hear negative talk. They went as far as to not allow anyone to talk badly about people that weren’t at the party.
I’ve had many parents tell me over the years how brave I am. The fact is, I really enjoy doing this for my kids, and they and their friends love the memories these get-togethers create. A bonus for me: I get to know their friends better, and even the parents better. Happy hosting!
Grettel Loney moved to Tulsa in 1989 to attend Oral Roberts University. She is married and has two children: a son at the University of Tulsa, and a daughter at Carver Middle School. When she’s not hosting a party for those two, Grettel enjoys Bible studies, playing the guitar, traveling, learning languages, and is an avid sports fan. Her other work for the918 includes My Journey: Mother’s Day Without Her, 9-18 Tips To Help You Deal with Back Pain, Her Journey With Chronic Pain Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Her Journey Through Grace to Gracie, and Tips to Help You with Your Spiritual New Year’s Resolutions.