How planning a birthday party is like prepping for trial // Life Without Parole

If you can survive one, you can survive the other

By Sharon Bauer

On Tuesday September 6th, 2016


It’s two nights before the big day. I’ve spent countless hours over the past year preparing and it’s nearly here. The event space is booked. The guest list is confirmed. And the boxes are packed with my tab-filled binder, my 10 highlighters, four pens, a hole punch and, of course, a portable printer (you never know when that might come in handy). I’m ready for my daughter’s fifth birthday party. All in all, it’s been as stressful and time-consuming as prepping for trial. But the parallels between courtrooms and parties don’t end here.

There are, of course, the last-minute surprises. For example, as I run through the party checklist one last time late at night, my daughter runs down the stairs in a panic. “Mom, I don’t want a Cinderella birthday party anymore! I want a Batman-Cinderella party.” What? How can she change the theme on me last minute? Can I adjourn this party? “And by the way Mom, I want to invite Alex.”

While I have nothing against sweet little Alex, I know her overly judgmental parents, who would no doubt be in attendance as well. Parents, at these things, function as juries. They closely observe the party, probing for mistakes. So far, the jury-selection process has gone in my favour. I’ve already successfully “challenged” four of my daughter’s good friends, knowing their parents will take notes and gossip. But regarding Alex, my daughter is adamant. Looks like I’m stuck with her parents.

Even the attire at my daughter’s party is at risk of resembling that of the courts. “I can’t wear this pink princess dress anymore,” she tells me. “It won’t match the Batman theme.” Are you kidding me? “Where am I going to find you a Batman-Cinderella dress?” She quickly replies. “I know! That black dress with the big wings you wear to work.”

Is she right? Does my court robe really look like it belongs to the caped crusader? I reply, “No honey, only grown-ups get to wear costumes.”

With that, there’s one last thing to do: prepare my daughter for her performance on the stand. This is crucial, so as to avoid a repeat of last year where every present she opened was followed by a curt “like it” or “don’t like it.” I tell her that no matter what the present is, say “I love it.” She has a confused look on her face. “So, you want me to lie?” she asks. I remind myself: this is not a trial. I cannot be disbarred by the Mom Society. “Yes,” I reply. “Yes I do.”



Sharon BauerSharon Bauer is a partner at Fireman Steinmetz Daya LLP and Precedent’s parenting columnist. Follow the mother of two on Twitter at @SharonBauerLLB.



Cover of the Fall Issue of Precedent Magazine

This story is from our Fall 2016 issue.




Illustration by Kyle Metcalf