My children have attended a lot of birthday parties this summer. It’s a fun phase for us and I’m glad they have these opportunities to celebrate with their friends and have fun experiences. From the parent perspective, it’s added some new logistical things to my role, not to mention created a line item in the family budget. Sending your child to a birthday party is nothing new for parents though, but as a blind parent, it causes me a little anxiety sometimes. I also don’t want my children to miss out on an experience just because I can’t figure out a way to make it work because of my blindness. So, I thought I’d share some tips I’ve discovered that may be useful to others.
I remember as a kid going to the store the day of the party to pick out a gift for my friend on my way to being dropped off. Being a non-driver, I don’t have this luxury, so I have to be more of a planner if I don’t want to spend $15 to take a round trip visit to Target just for a gift, or a thirty minute round trip walk to some place close, provided the weather is amicable to do so. . . Sometimes I can pick something up when I do my weekly grocery shopping—if I remember and am actually going in the store. I often use Walmart grocery pick up and don’t go into the store. Otherwise, here are some other strategies I discovered.
I stack a lot of errands with outings so as to avoid spending a lot on Uber/ Lyft/cab trips and to save my “friend/driver chips” for more important tasks. So usually once or twice a month I go to Target or Walmart for things other than groceries to get the miscellaneous things, including birthday gifts. . Corner drug stores are also a great resource and sometimes closer than big box stores. We live within walking distance of a Rite Aid and Walgreens, and I’ve frequently visited one of them the day before or day of to purchase a gift for a party. They have a surprisingly good selection of children’s games, toys, books, and art supplies, not to mention you can also get gift wrap, cards, and a snack to throw in. Amazon Prime Now is also a good solution if it’s available in your area. (You can get items delivered same-day within a two hour window.) Once I forgot to get a gift, so at 10 p.m. the night before a party, I ordered a “Melissa and Doug” item and had it delivered between 8-9 a.m. the next day for a party that started at 10 a.m. Just another amazing thing about Amazon.
Another idea I’m starting to try is to stock up on small gift items and gift wrap when I’m at stores like Target or the Dollar Store so that I can save some money by getting it on sale and not having to pay for a ride again just for that. This also comes in handy in a pinch like when you can’t walk to the drug store because it’s raining.
Getting your child to/from the Party
Okay, again, being a non-driver requires some logistical planning. We’ve been pretty lucky many times in that we know the other children attending, so I can call up and ask one of those parents to give my child and maybe myself a ride. Sometimes I haven’t even had to ask. But, we’ve also had times when our children have been invited by a classmate whom we don’t know as well or we don’t know the other families going, so I can’t do that as easily. IN these circumstances, if public transit isn’t an option, it can require up to four paid trips—to/from to drop off and later pick up. This isn’t as bad for parties where parents are included like many for young children, but when parents are generally not expected to stay, I’ve sometimes offered to stay and help out just to save myself two trips. Having hosted a few birthday parties myself, I know the help will most likely be appreciated. This would also be a great circumstance where you may want to ask a family member or close friend to drive your child as well, but I like to save those chips when I can so as not to wear out my welcome with those individuals.
Just a little note on sticking around to help…Sometimes as blind parents it can be challenging to meet other parents in large social settings like at a school event, at church, or a playgroup,, because we can’t see them to go up to them and begin a conversation, so a smaller setting like a birthday party can be a great way to interact and strike up a friendship, not to mention a great way to demonstrate your capabilities as a blind person. For example, helping to serve food, set the table, pour drinks, etc. You’ll impress them with your skills and may get a piece of cake out of the deal too—wink!