• Mon, Dec 16 - 3:00 pm ET

The 5 Worst Things About Classroom Parties (And How To Survive Them)

165749535It’s that time of year—if you have a school-aged child, somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you will be “invited” to their classroom holiday party, and woe betide you should you choose to decline. Despite the promise that you’ll be making memories to last a lifetime, there are some hazards that accompany your attendance. Not long ago, I was new to this Game of Thrones-y ritual of classroom politics and desperately wishing that there was some type of survival guide to accompany it. None existed—before now. You’re welcome.

  • The Problem: The Room Mother




For the uninitiated, a Room Mother is someone who has volunteered to do stuff in the classroom, including planning holiday parties, emailing you way too many times a day, and staging public shamings of the parents who don’t raise enough fundraiser money. Now, I would rather chew glass than join the PTA, so I try not to judge the room mom too harshly, but in my own experience they all seem to fit a certain personality type. Last year I was in charge of bringing green sprinkles, so I brought green sprinkles. Unbeknownst to me, these were the wrong color green. She wanted hunter green, I brought kelly. I got such a scathing telling off that I was certain that at any moment she would begin to seriously doubt my commitment to Sparkle Motion.

The Solution:

Have you ever heard the phrase, “It is better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven?” this applies here. Befriending the room mom is key to avoiding tasks like the Cookie Station or being glared at witheringly from 100 paces when you attempt to leave the party to go to work. This is best achieved with a gift card to Hobby Lobby or by repinning her stuff on Pinterest with sycophantic affirmations.

  • The Problem: The Cookie Station





The Cookie Station is where dreams go to die. Somewhere along the lines, someone decided that decorating sugar cookies “to take home later” was a super duper idea for a party populated mostly by the 6-and-under set. Spoiler alert: it’s not. I learned the hard way that the Room Mother is not okay with kids eating these beforehand and spoiling their appetite for the mini mincemeat pie tray that she painstakingly put together. The problem, of course, is that as soon as the kelly green sprinkles go on as a finishing touch, you will not get the cookie away from a Kindergartner without losing a finger.

The Solution:

The Grabber. For a mere $14.95, at retailers wherever fine products are sold, you can attain one of these bad boys. Best paired with sharpening your reflexes at a Krav Maga class, you can quickly swipe the treats away, saving them so that they can be ground into the bottom of your kid’s backpack later.


  • The Problem: Tiny Chairs


You know what I’m talking about, and what you’re in for. The tiny chair is a demonic contraption, its plastic specially molded to replicate sciatic nerve pain whenever you sit in them. Hunched over and suffering, these chairs are perfectly designed to get people to confess their darkest sins just to get the pain to mercifully, finally stop.

The Solution:


We return to the As Seen on TV endcap of your neighborhood drug store, where you can acquire a pair of Booty Pop padded undies. I would never recommend these as a figure enhancer because you are beautiful and your derriere is doubtless fine the way it is, but as a way to defeat the tiny chair, it has no equal.  As a bonus to you thrifty moms, you can likely find a pair of used Booty Pop knickers for 2.95 on eBay this very instant.

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  • Alicia Kiner

    Wow, the holiday parties at your kids’ schools are crazy. My kids get an hour… tops. In that hour, they get to eat snacks, do a little craft (my daughter’s class made foam ornaments/magnets last year) and play games on their really cool white board. While cheerful music is playing. It’s loud, sugar-fueled, fun, but definitely not a headache. People need to relax.

  • G.E. Phillips

    I feel like I need to put this post somewhere on the scale of Fear and Love.

    Ok, not really. I just wanted to make another Donnie Darko reference.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    I don’t remember parents ever coming to my school’s parties ever. We all brought in a snack of some kind and for an hour at the end of the day we were allowed to socialize freely and eat.

    • Zettai

      Same here. Is this parent at parties/room mother idea a private school dilemma, or is it just how all schools work nowadays?

    • Andrea

      This is how schools work now. There is an INSANE amount of guilt-induced “parent involvement” required for your child to get a “quality” education out of govt. schools.

      I didn’t grow up in this country and in my country parents came maybe twice a year for a show and a parent teacher meeting; but I spoke to my husband and he says he NEVER remembers anyone’s parents being at the school ever. So this is a new thing that sucks balls for anyone that isn’t 100% a stay at home mom.

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ FaintlyXMacabre

      MAJOR balls. Except now I do stay at home so I feel incredibly guilty if I skip out. I worked at a daycare and even then when parents came in I felt weird disciplining their kids in any way, so I wonder if teachers feel like this when I’m lurking about.

    • Andrea

      Yeah actually I should have said it pretty much sucks balls for most people anyways. Because even if you are a SAHM, it doesn’t mean you sit around eating bon bons all day while your kids are in school. Most SAHMs have a shitload of things they gotta take care of because almost all the household management falls on them.

    • Vicki Lewis

      That’s what I was thinking reading this article. When did schools become so demanding about parents attending all these things? When I was in school I think my parents came to our Christmas show once a year and that was it. Many parents have full time jobs that are not flexible, what are they supposed to do?

    • Andrea

      You take vacation time or you rush during your lunch hour or you don’t go an feel guilty. Sucks.

    • LiteBrite

      My son goes to public school, and there has been a room parent for each of his grades. However, as I just commented, my son’s teacher has made it clear that she prefers little to no parental involvement, even from the room parent.

    • ted3553

      Me either. Usually we had snacks and played or had free time in the gym. I think some parents are going over the top so preshyus can have a wonderful childhood

    • SA

      We did have parents come, but only through like 2nd grade. I do not recall a room mother though – I believe we were assigned something to bring via note home and our moms just came and helped facilitate the handing out of treats so the teacher didn’t lose control. We ate and went on our way.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Yeah, I never go to my daughter’s, because I’m teaching. She’s in fourth grade; I guess I’ve been to one. I feel shitty for saying that, but some jobs you can’t just take off in the middle of the day.

    • AE Vorro

      Same here. It was just a part of the school day before leaving for break. Why do parents need to be involved?

  • Lackadaisical

    I will never moan about the endless class parties at my kids school again. UK schools don’t have room mothers, whatever they are, and Christmas parties are for the class only. The youngest two classes (3/4 & 4/5) seem to have a lot of events that parents are supposed to attend but it is run entirely by the teachers and teaching assistants and you basically wander round with your kid, looking at what they get up to in class and then go so that the staff can get back to teaching. I will be going to a party for the class I volunteer with (as a teaching assistant so I can get enough experience to find a paid job as a teaching assistant, not a room mother I swear), and apparently it will be feeding kids treats and … feeding kids more treats.

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ FaintlyXMacabre

      So far we’ve had welcome night, book fair day, thanksgiving feast, and holiday party. These are all separate from P/T conferences and the like.

    • brebay

      We also have to feed the teachers dinner at P/T conferences…and then they get Thursday and Friday off for actually having to be in the building for more than 8 hours in a day, which everyone else just calls “work.”

    • Lackadaisical

      We have had a lot of events but they have been for the kids so parents don’t attend, they just send kids in with costumes and cakes. It wouldn’t be too bad but I have 3 kids with a three years gap between each so when one kid is done the next has something on. This term each year group has had a day long fête based on their topic for each of the other classes to visit as part of their fundraising for trips. It’s a great idea but it would have been better spaced out across the year away from the Christmas madness of nativities and Christmas parties (and other stuff). The year I work with had an alien topic that worked very well as they learned about space, went to the library to learn how to look up information on our planet to send back letters to our mysterious alien visitorvisitor, learned about maps and directions and also learned about their own bodies and what makes people human (and the differences in people). They based their fête on the aliens love underpants books and had lots of stalls with active games or things to make as well as a cake stall, and the year running it came dressed as aliens. Utterly brilliant and the rest of the school loved it. However, last week year 5/6 (3 combined two year class from 9-11) had a Victorian day with Victorian costumes, followed by them running a joint Victorian Christmas fair with the pta after school (well more like two fairs with one in the hall by pta and one in adjoining classrooms by kids, pta not impressed as not collecting money for the same thing). Tomorrow year 5/6 are having a Viking fête (with costume) and reception already did a Halloween one. Last week we also had Christmas jumper day (UK schools wear uniform) and bring a bike or scooter covered in tinsel day. For children in need (a charity fundraising day in the UK) they all came to school in pajamas with a favourite book for story time. For the past few weeks lessons have been minimal as kids have rehearsed for the nativities (one for the 3-5 year olds and one for 5-7 year olds), and there were several performances of each, including one for kids at a rival/nearby school, and our kids visit them to see theirs. Plus parties all of this week and the older class have no lessons as they are presenting their projects to each other. We also disrupted lessons further by making presents to families (iced Christmas cakes take a lot of lessons) but parents don’t need to contribute to that, and the whole of the younger half of the school are making christingles (again parents don’t do much, just send an orange and a candle in) so no learning this afternoon. Parents and teachers are rather frazzled this term and the kids are hyped. Oh yes, and kids who are in the house with the most points don’t wear uniform on Friday (1/4 of the school) which doesn’t sound a big deal if your kids school doesn’t wear uniform but when they do then finding nice home clothes that they didn’t wear to the party earlier that week can be a big deal.

  • NicknamesAreDull

    I’m the room mother, but not by choice. I took my daughter in to class one morning and her teacher informed me that my name was drawn, but if I couldn’t do it, they’d draw again. I also have an “assistant room mom” and “treasurer: My husband’s pre-deployment leave fell right before the party.

    So, there’s a win.

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ FaintlyXMacabre

      You are a better woman than I because I would have bailed so hard.

  • redzulu

    Feeling more prepared for when my kid has holiday parties. Thanks for the guide! :)

  • brebay

    Ugh. the room nazi. Six years ago when my son was in kindergarten, I signed up to bring cookies to the Christmas party clear back in August. Two days before the party, the room mom called me and said “I have you down for a veggie tray.” I said “Really? I thought I had cookies.” She explained that they had decided to go with veggies and dry popcorn (Yum.) I was in grad school and didn’t have a lot of money, cookies are cheap, the damn veggies cost me $25. When I got there to pick him up, the kids were running around hyper as all hell (because, Christmas, not sugar) and trays of vegetables sat untouched as far as the eye could see. She continued to be room mother each year after that. I politely acquiesced when she called me to remind me to bring cheese, fruit, popcorn, and then showed up with cookies or cupcakes anyway. By fifth grade, she had given up, she showed up that year with cheetos and pop. Loved her for that!

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ FaintlyXMacabre

      This is hilarious, but I am so sorry that this happened to you. Glad to hear she relented. Ours is showing no signs of letting up and is now head of the entire PTA. I honestly have no idea how she does all of it–and unkindly speculate that cocaine is a hell of a drug.

    • Beth

      I have never had the joy of dealing with the room mom for my daughter’s class, but my husband has. For three years he has been on her bad side ever since he questioned why it’s such a big deal that they need to find silver glitter when they have gold for the impromptu Christmas card craft. She explained how it just wasn’t festive enough without both. He made the poor judgment of thinking she was joking and laughed. Stare of Death ensued.

  • Julie

    I am very sad that I have to miss my daughter’s class party but it is really all about one craft and then they eat. I like the parents I have met from her class and it only lasts from 2:15-3:00 when school is over. So just enough time to enjoy the kids but not go too crazy

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ FaintlyXMacabre

      End of the day party sounds awesomesauce. Ours is at 8:15.

  • Guest

    I wish the parents in my class would leave after 45 minutes. I spent a half hour getting them to leave after our Thanksgiving feast- and only two parents helped me clean up and serve the kids. That’s why our holiday party is for an hour, midday, and the parents must leave so we can head to recess. I don’t care if I’m the meanest teacher in the world for doing this, but after the last party (who seriously just leaves when there are trays of food to clean up and shrimp smashed onto the teacher’s desk?), I’m not playing.

  • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

    Love the cookies ground in to the backpacks bit! Truer words have never been spoken. I love when they give them something like Chex Mix to take home and the bag didn’t close properly. Oh, one year it was Reindeer Food (to throw in the yard), which is freaking cereal and glitter. In her backpack for the rest of the year….

    Also, does anyone who have to pay for preschool also have to provide this shit? My kids go to public school, but the preschool is not included, so the preschool program is actually pretty expensive, but that doesn’t stop them from sending home requests for food for parties. I’m thinking…we already pay you, use the money for that and leave me the F alone!

  • Liza Jones

    I’m signed up to bring Capri Suns to my son’s party this Friday. All juice, or flavored water?? What flavor to choose? Decisions, decisions!! Living the life here, friends, living the life.

    • Jessica

      We can only send water or 100% Apple Juice. Send a few Roaring Waters from me! ;-)

  • http://fckwhatyouheard.wordpress.com/ Lunashademom

    I was the ‘co-room mother’ last year for my son’s kindergarten class. It was a newbie mistake. NEVER AGAIN.

  • LiteBrite

    I have not been invited to my son’s kindergarten holiday party this week. In fact, my son’s teacher has made it clear, through implications in her spoken and written word choices, that she prefers no parental involvement. I’m totes cool with this.

    I was, however, asked to have the kid bring cupcakes for the party. I’m totes cool with this too.