SOCIETY: Underage Partying

Forget Crystal Charity Ball. This season’s biggest social events are chic birthday parties for kids.

I fancy myself a sort of local Auntie Mame—old, single, alone, clueless, yet good with my friends’ kids. On a recent Saturday afternoon, I threw on jeans and a t-shirt, rushed to Target for a gift, and popped over to University Park for a 1-year-old’s birthday party. I began to feel a little uneasy as I drove up to my friend’s house and noted the valet station. I surrendered the keys and was met by a slightly malevolent clown who escorted me to the front door. Though he was mute and smiling wildly, I couldn’t help but notice that he gave my outfit the once-over.

I knew why when I walked inside. The house was teeming with well-dressed, gorgeous supermodels. Freakishly fit, beautiful parents looked as though they had come to the party directly from a Neiman Marcus catalog shoot. Eerily poised toddlers strutted through clusters of balloons and streamers, clad in clothing worth more than my car. Even the waitstaff looked spiffy in crisp, black-and-white uniforms. I was, for sure, the worst-dressed person in the room.

I refused a canapé and fled to the dining room, figuring that most of the super-skinny mommies didn’t have diets that included solid food. I hit pay dirt. Save for a few kids who hadn’t yet learned to starve themselves, I had to myself a buffet that included delectables brought in from everywhere from Sushi on McKinney to Sammy’s to Chick-fil-A. (For the children, sure, but I helped myself to a few—okay, 20—of the nuggets.) The kids and I looked everywhere for paper plates but had no choice but to use the fine china the hostess had laid out.

After giving myself a stern talking-to about the dangers of emotional overeating, I returned to the living room. I mingled. I tried to participate in conversations involving a host of topics, including breast-feeding versus formula, Montessori versus church nursery school, and Waldemar versus Mystic. And though I nodded at the right times, I was distracted. To my left was the ballet dancer birthday cake. I couldn’t begin to describe its intricacy, except to say that Degas is apparently alive and well and designing cakes in Dallas. To my right was the gift table, filled with expensively presented gifts from the best stores in town.

All of this forced me to pose some pretty tough questions. Can I ever afford to have children? Why in the world had I bought this privileged child’s gift at Target, then “wrapped” it in a Target bag? Was it time to retire the Midwestern tennis shoes-and-jeans look? Thank heavens for the open bar, I thought. After much discussion, neither the sensitive bartender nor I could figure out what had happened to the McDonald’s Playland parties of our youth.

Yes, parties for the under-10 set have become the social events. And not just in the Park Cities. Families from Lakewood to Frisco are staging elaborate soirees. Want to make sure your kid knows he is loved? Confused about how to one-up the neighbors? We’ve amassed a list that will guarantee a cool, fun birthday party for your little darlings. >>

VENUES
Sometimes your house just isn’t fancy enough.

ASI Gymnastics. Future Carly Pattersons will love this party place. Parties are recommended for kids ages 3 and up and range from $170 (1-15 guests) to $200 (16-30 guests), but that includes only gymnastics. Hostesses must bring food, drinks, cups, plates, and the family silver. Events last an hour and a half, including 20 minutes on the trampoline and 20 minutes on the floor. ASI cleans up the mess. 11835 Greenville Ave. 972-671-5510. www.asigymnastics.com.

The Dallas Country Club. Though paying extra for food, drink, and cake—as well as coming up with the $100,000 initiation fee—might prove a bit taxing, the DCC birthday party is a classic. Kids can splash around in the pool while adults sun themselves and sip cocktails. Though you may have to share the space with people who aren’t part of your party, at least they are the right kind of people. 4100 Beverly Dr. 214-521-2151.

Pump It Up. Filled with bounce-house equipment, this warehouse is sure to tire out even the most hyperactive kid. A typical party ranges from $195 (Monday through Thursday) to $230 (Friday through Sunday and holidays). Fees include full-color invites and paper products. Pizza and soda can be purchased for $2.95 per person. No outside food is permitted, save for cake and ice cream. 7164 Technology Dr., Frisco. 214-387-9663. www.pumpitupparty.com.

THEMES
It’s never too early to prepare your kids for sorority and fraternity parties.

The Art Safari Party. Ask anyone who’s had a kid go through UP Elementary during the past 10 years about recently retired art teacher D’Ann Moxley, and they’ll have a story for you. They may tell you about the time she donned a monobrow and dressed up like Frida Kahlo. (It wasn’t Halloween.) They will probably mention her awesome summer camps. They will definitely tell you how she constantly entertained, motivated, and inspired their kids. Now in private practice, Moxley offers classes in her studio and can create a unique art party for budding Picassos. She’ll bring in the necessary supplies and entertain 12 children for an hour and a half for $200. 214-755-8130.

The Petting Zoo Lalapalooza. Haven’t you always wanted to bring a little of the State Fair to your back yard? Now you can. Mimi’s Pony Go Round offers an à la carte selection for your child’s next party. Baby farm animals are brought in—an 8-by-8 area costs $160 for the first hour; an 8-by-16 area runs $200. Pony rides are also available—one pony is $125 for the first hour; two ponies are $150; and a five-horse carousel (time to break out the Miss Scarlet and Rhett Butler costumes) is $200. All prices are half the second hour. 214-460-0245.

The Runaway Train Gala. Tickets, please: the All Aboard Adventure Railroad is the coolest locomotive in town. Children can dress like conductors, wealthy passengers, or hobos. Both children and adults may ride the train. Assembly may require a large piece of land and/or a permit to shut down the street. The train runs about $250 for the first hour and $125 for the second. 972-293-0634. www.adventurerailroad.com.

Wet-and-wild Fete. Here’s how this party goes down: Bounce ’N’ Go delivers a waterslide contraption. Adults watch dispassionately as the children go bananas. After several drinks, the adults begin edging closer to the slide. By the end of the party, the kids are relegated to their rooms, and parents are pushing one another out of the way to cut in line. We’ve witnessed it. Delivery, setup, and pickup: $195. 972-987-7518. www.bouncengo.com.

INVITATIONS
Only the uncool go to Hallmark and use a ballpoint.

The invite sets the tone for the party. But more important, your invitation will have to fight for a prominent location on refrigerators all across town. If money is no object, check out Polka Dots (8306 Kate St. 214-739-2107), Needle in a Haystack (6911 Preston Rd. 214-528-2850), and Pomegranates, the Party Place (4709 W. Parker Rd., Plano. 972-867-6899) for fun, pretty options. Or visit PartyCat (www.partycat.com), where you can purchase something cool for a song.

BAKED GOODS
What’s a party without pastries?

Celebrity Cafe & Bakery. You know how some iced cookies are gorgeous but taste like shortbread from the 1940s? Not here. Celebrity’s sugar cookies are soft and buttery, and the icing is gorgeous and delicious. The bakery offers a variety of shapes, but feel free to bring in a cookie cutter of your own. Though a bit pricey—$1.30-$3 each, depending on size and shape—we think they’re worth every penny. 65 Highland Park Village. Multiple locations. 214-528-6612.

Central Market. Stop turning up your nose. Central Market is the Harry Winston of grocery stores, and we defy you to find a moister, tastier cupcake than the flowered ones we can’t resist. They are great with wine—or so we’ve heard. Cupcakes are $1.59 each. 5750 E. Lovers Ln. 214-234-7000; 320 Coit Rd., Plano. 469-241-8300. www.centralmarket.com.

Le Gateau Cakery. We recently attended a party that featured a cake from Le Gateau, and we winced when it came time to slice into that masterpiece. Then we had a bite. We promptly wrenched the knife away from our surprised host—who wasn’t moving fast enough—so we could butcher it further. Bring in your flashy party invite and request a matching cake. Prices start at about $50 (but will likely be more). 3128 Harvard Ave. 214-528-6102. www.legateaucakery.com.

Let Them Eat Cookies. You request the size, shape, and design, and Kimberly Coggeshall creates something beyond your wildest dreams. We’ve seen everything from Pi Phi arrows to locomotives. Park Cities’ favorite whimsical, custom cookies are iced to perfection and can be individually wrapped in cellophane (25 cents per cookie). Only the organized need buy here; Coggeshall works out of her home and needs about a two-week lead time. And the cookies don’t come cheap: $2.50-$3.75 each. Bt appointment only. 214-528-5832.

Stein’s Bakery. Stein’s is a no-nonsense place. Until recently, a sign above the register alerted patrons that the store would prosecute anyone who dared write a hot check. Luckily, the sign has been removed, and the bakery takes credit cards. Check out the lovely petit fours. Pretty to look at, they are the most wonderful, melt-in-your-mouth morsels you will ever sample, and at $1.40 each, they should be. 12829 Preston Rd., Ste. 417. 972-385-9911.

BEST NEW TREND
We’re single and don’t have children.

Alcohol. Available at a variety of places. Thank heavens.

*Freelancer Laura Kostelny often writes about the trendiest trends for D Magazine.

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