Puzzling Preteen Parties

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Birthday Balloons

Tomorrow is my son’s birthday and I am in a panic – I still haven’t found a gift. When he was little, shopping was easy – a quick trip to the toy store, find the isle with cars, trucks, action figures, and Lego sets, and we were in business. The older they get, the more challenging it becomes to find the perfect gift.

So what do you get a kid who is in that difficult place of being too old for toys but still young enough to want them? Gadgets are always great, and kids today are more “tech-savvy” than most adults. When I can’t get my cell phone to do what I want, I ask my son. He pushes buttons, frowns, pushes some more buttons, and then hands my phone back to me in perfect working order. The same is true with the computer, my iPod, and the DVR box on the television. (I don’t understand why one TV requires six different remotes. All I want to do is set a recording … why isn’t that as easy as it sounds?)

Having a major birthday fall on a Wednesday is also an issue. We’ll save the party for the weekend, but I’d like to make his actual birthday special – even though it is a day of school, practices, music lessons, and homework (not to mention a busy day at work for me). One way to do this is to cook his favorite dish. This isn’t too much of a problem because his favorite dish is pulled pork sandwiches (he’s still a kid, after all). I have a great crock-pot recipe that makes it easy – I can set it in the morning before I leave, let it cook all day, pull the pork and add barbecue sauce when I get home, let it simmer, and by the time we are done running around to after-school lessons and practices, dinner is ready.

I miss the days of themed birthday parties – it made everything so much easier. At five, he loved dinosaurs. The cake, decorations, and party favors were all in a dinosaur theme. At six, he loved pirates, at seven it was trains, at eight it was monster trucks, and at nine it was soccer. Once a kid reaches a certain age, favorite things are less obvious. I know he likes music (I think … he complains a lot about lessons), I know he likes professional wrestling (but only sort of … and definitely not as a theme … I tried that last year), and beyond that, I don’t have a clue. Somewhere along the way, he became an enigma.

Now I understand the draw of gift cards … it’s much easier to hand a walking preteen puzzle a gift card rather than try and figure out what they might actually enjoy. But it is a lot less fun – so for now, I’ll keep looking.