Riker, age 2

Theme: Toy Story

Drinks: Miller Lite

Menu: Classic American Cookout. Father Steve made sure to tell me he’d bought special beef. Prime rib ground beef, he told me, which sounded made up. He makes a lot of shit up.

Damage: The moms nearly caught us dads vaping in the garage.

Other Notes: Father Steve made me listen to his country album, his latest project. His six-figure credit card debt finally convinced him to nix the motivational book he was writing. I’d been intrigued by the concept of a self-help book written by a person who could neither write nor help himself. In his sappy love song to his pregnant wife, he omitted the part about how he occasionally goes to the bar after work and how his phone dies when he does so.

Brooklyn, age 7

Theme: None

Drinks: Assorted beers and wine

Menu: Spaghetti Bolognese, garlic bread, Italian beef

Damage: My wife, Nicole, insisted I bring ingredients to make classic margaritas. She says mine are the best she’s ever had, even though I only follow the three-ingredient recipe from the cocktail app on my phone. The result is a very stiff drink. Perhaps Nicole should have warned Amanda, who by her third drink, confessed to the girls that she’d thought of leaving David. I don’t think he was paying attention.

Other Notes: I spent most of the time pushing my daughter on the swing and making sure that Riker didn’t throw himself into her path, which he often does.

Sophia, age 4

Theme: Sunday Brunch

Drinks: Bloody Mary bar, mimosas, craft beers

Menu: An upscale brunch spread prepared by mother Jen, a former chef. I exclusively snacked on the contents of the bagel and lox platter. At the party’s end, there was still a criminally ignored pile of lox. I made a third bagel.

Damage: The Brozowskis found Riker walking alone down the street. None of us were surprised when the parents didn’t notice their only child was missing.

Other Notes: Jen made a second cake for her husband, Ryan. He disappeared before the guests could sing to him. Ryan is the only husband from our social circle who makes any sense to me.

Aiden, age 4

Theme: Super Bowl

Drinks: Beer, half a bottle of bourbon. Mother Carly made her “Famous Margaritas” for the moms. These margaritas would elicit no confessions of dead bedrooms.

Menu: Chili, nachos, and buffalo wings.

Damage: During the national anthem, a few fathers stood with hands over their hearts, instructing their boys to do the same. I sat, as any rational person would. Unfortunately, it hasn’t gotten us disinvited from any future birthday parties.

Other Notes: We left at halftime, so I missed the mothers’ reactions as J-Lo descended from a pole and then proudly displayed the Puerto Rican flag, which I can only assume some in the group believed to be a foreign country.

Milo, age 1

Theme: Italian Restaurant? I still don’t know.

Menu: Pasta and meatballs. I’d smoked a little pot before coming, and when I saw Father Blake and Mother Rachel’s matching Pizza Planet shirts and decorative pizza boxes, I became singularly focused on the pizza that would never come.

Damage: Rachel and Blake’s new neighbors, Jackie and Andrew were there. I’d gone to high school with both of them. Years ago, Jackie had invited me to her apartment where we messed around. She didn’t mention anything about dating Andrew. As Andrew and I pushed our children the swing set, I was a little too high to reconcile any of it.

Other Notes: I don’t remember.

Rhodes, age 2

Theme: Nicole chose a rodeo theme for our son’s party, reinforced by bales of hay, and a sign that read, “This ain’t my first rodeo, it’s my second.”

Menu: I prepared chili, hot dogs, and smoked a pork shoulder. I also bought a platter of mac and cheese from a restaurant. It was the clear favorite.

Damage: The night before, we moved the party to the morning so we could avoid the forecasted rain. It rained anyway. We moved everything—including the hay—inside. Because of COVID concerns, we asked that people show up at random intervals. Everybody came at 11. My mother-in-law’s elderly friends voiced concerns over being inside. Though they had a point, they didn’t have to stay for the full four hours, which they did. There was not a cloud in the sky from 4 PM to 8 PM, the original scheduled time.

Other notes: My mother said, “Don’t you wish they could stay this age forever?” I wondered if a child who doesn’t age still has birthday parties. “Yes,” I said.