Chaperones Required; Goodie Bags Optional.


Here’s the thing: I’ll take responsibility for not investigating the details of the birthday party to the extent that I now know I should have. I would say ‘my bad’ but I hate that phrase. Anyway, I’ll own that piece.

But here’s the other thing: when you host a birthday party on a Saturday afternoon in a public place and all of the guests are early elementary school students, I’m going to trust, as I place my child in your care, that you have adequate chaperones to supervise the event. I’m going to trust that you will create a safe environment where children can play and celebrate the birth of your own child.

I’m not going to believe that the parents and supervising adults will step away at the bowling alley, enjoy their own lane of competition, and let all the six year olds fend for themselves. I want to trust that you’re watching for bullies. I need to believe that you are.

But, this isn’t the first time naivete hit me rightin my (cheery and rosy) optimistic face.

“Mommy, it was the worst birthday party ever.” He went on to tell me all kinds of details that just made me mad. Seriously, parents. Let’s work together. I know we don’t all follow the same rule book, but really? Just a few basic guidelines.That would be awesome.

Like, don’t let another kid spit in my son’s face. Or smash his fingers with a bowling ball.

I gathered my two for a meeting of the minds. “Guys, here’s what you need to know. First of all, I am so very, very sorry I wasn’t there today. I thought the adults in charge would have taken care of you, and I trusted them. I’m so sorry. If I had known, I would have stayed right there at the bowling alley so you could find me.”

(And when should a parent ever stop doing this? When do we send them off into the world, a couple of hours a time, trusting that the world will handle them carefully?)

“Here’s the next thing you need to know. If you are ever, ever anywhere that you need me, you call me.”

“But we don’t have phones.”

“But other people do. And if the first person you askdoesn’t help you, ask the next person. Go to a counter and ask someone in uniform. You know my phone number, and I will always – always – come and get you if you feel unsafe where you are. That’s true for the rest of your life.”

(Take that little nugget to prom with you, if needed.)

“I will come to the party right away, and I will bring you home.”

We practice my phone number. We role play asking adults for help. And then there is silence.

“But, Mommy, would I still get to have the birthday party goodie bag?”

Seriously?  Whatever. “Yes.”


Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. I hate to say I can top that story; the good news is that Cody did survive his first birthday party. I dropped my 4-year-old at Fun City, a bit put off by the general mayhem and the 10 other parties occurring simultaneously in one large room. Turns out there was a Wheel of Fortune-type prize wheel off to the side and several kids went over to take a look at it. Imagine Cody’s surprise when the entire wheel, spikes and all, fell forward and landed on his face! Two of the metal prongs, designed to catch the spinner as it traveled around the circle, narrowly missed his eye and pierced his cheek and forehead. Needless to say, young Cody didn’t attend the rest of the party and had to visit the ER. We kept assuring him that all parties weren’t like that one! When I returned to speak to a manager the next day I was told my son “shouldn’t have been messing with the wheel”…out for anyone to touch and unsupervised by staff. Moral of the story: keep birthday parties out of public places!!

  2. Sorry your kids experienced parents behaving badly. You should have been able to trust the adults there, Tricia. It’s become an epidemic I believe and not just at public functions. I cringe at church when the parents are standing around chatting while their child (children) is climbing pews and running around the sanctuary or on stage manhandling the praise instruments. I, as a teacher, have had chaperones for field trips to the zoo, park, etc., that let the kids run off from them. Seriously?! Don’t offer to chaperone for me then. Never again. My class will stay together next time, parents can follow if they choose. Lose a kid or have one get hurt out of negligence? Not on my watch. 🙁

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