We’ve all done it: thrown an overcompensating birthday party for our kids. Maybe it was the party we wanted as a kid, maybe we were trying to impress other parents and, sure, part of it was our desire to make our kids happier than a sugar rush. In my novel Playdate, the stay-at-home-dad (SAHD) Lance often speaks from my hard-won experience raising my own kids. In some ways, he’s the Zen parent I wanted to be, with an added dose of my husband’s common sense stirred in.
One of the key plot points is that Lance’s wife, Darlene, hooks the opening of her new diner on the special event of their daughter’s eleventh birthday, She throws her daughter Belle a big overcompensating party with a guest list larded with strangers, when all her daughter wanted in her heart-of-hearts was some chill time with her parents. And it comes as a surprise to Darlene that Belle is sulky about the event. Lance sets his wife straight. He tells her:
“Today’s party oozes with Disneyland syndrome. It’s like this: if you take Belle to Disneyland, and scream louder than she does on the Matterhorn and buy her every pizza-popcorn-pretzel she requests, every souvenir that will fall forgotten under the car seat by the time we reach home, she’ll remember that as her childhood.”
I think I made up the idea of Disneyland syndrome, but it’s a common mistake. I look back and laugh at my son’s fourth or fifth birthday. [Read more…]