By Rachel Pieh Jones
I love twin birthday parties. Two-for-one.
I love celebrating my kids. I don’t love throwing birthday parties. I am not into complicated decorations, cute themes, or goodie bags. I like baking and eating cake. I like playing games and staging competitions. So, I love twin birthday parties. Two-for-one.
I have boy-girl twins. Once in a while I considered throwing two separate parties on consecutive days but that simply seemed too daunting and in the early years my twins shared friends. I prefer the utter chaos of one fantabulous afternoon to the never-ending exhaustion of back-to-back sugar highs. Two cakes but only one day of raucous fun. Two easily definable teams for game time. You know how people tell mothers of twins when we are pregnant with them that this is such a great deal? Well, when it comes to birthday parties, this finally pays off. My twins have had a total of twenty-eight birthdays but only half that number of parties. Score!
I have now quit throwing birthday parties for my twins. They can have sleepovers or can hang out with friends and we’ll have a family celebration on our own but no more big parties, they’re too old. However, in the earlier years even as we lumped all the kids together no matter their gender, I had a thing or two to learn about parties, kids, and especially twin kids and twin parties. One of the main discoveries was the four gender stages of coed twin birthday parties.
Stage 1: Gender Neutral, ages 0-7
These are the easiest years. Kids just didn’t care who is a boy and who is a girl. My kids shared all their friends and wanted to invite essentially the same kids. My son invited girls and my daughter invited boys. No difference. At the party, the whole group hangs out together. They play the same games, ooh and aah over the same gifts, take home the same prizes, cry about the same birthday sugar-induced concerns.
Stage 2: Gender Wars ages 8-9
Around age 8 my twins became hyper alert to who was a boy and who was a girl. Though they had always known, ever since that fateful bath when they both (as toddlers) discovered my son had something my daughter lacked, they hadn’t cared. Now? They cared big time. Boys have cooties, girls have cooties. Now, they play the same games but the teams are girls against the boys and the winning team is proof of that gender’s superiority. This is a great age for water balloon battles at the birthday party. There are separate invitations, separate goodie bags, separate cakes. Each gender is still interested in the gifts for both the boy and the girl, primarily so they can scoff at the others’ foolish gifts.
Stage 3: Gender Ignoring ages 10-12
By this age the cooties are gone. Calling out about cooties implies paying attention to the opposite gender and that is no longer cool. Now, there is such a thing as cool and cool includes the mandate to simply pretend ‘the other’ doesn’t exist. At this stage, the girls play games inside while the boys play games outside, and then they trade places. They no longer sing Happy Birthday to both twins and they no longer care about the gifts the other receives.
Stage 4: Gender Spicy ages 13+
Gone are the years of warring and ignoring. Enter, the years of attraction. A coed birthday party is the perfect place to check out the girls, or the boys. Now there are battles over who to invite or not to invite. “He likes her but she doesn’t like him so he can’t come,” my daughter might say. To which my son might respond, “Not his fault. Don’t invite her.” As the mom who prefers one massive party to two parties, I insist they work it out or don’t have any party. The invitations are negotiated and then the party begins and the eyes slide across the room, the flirting begins and mom decides no more co-ed birthday parties.
Rachel Pieh Jones lives in Djibouti with her husband and three children: 14-year old twins and a 9-year old who feel most at home when they are in Africa. Her work has been published in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, FamilyFun, Babble, and Running Times. Visit her at:Djibouti Jones, her Facebook page or on Twitter @rachelpiehjones.