When my only-child son had his 9th birthday in mid-March, we had to cancel his Dr. Who-themed birthday party — which he’d been planning pretty much since the day after his 8th birthday party. This disappointment struck a heavy blow to his emotional state. When he told us about two weeks into social distancing that “coronavirus has crushed my spirit,” I think a big part of it was the lingering disappointment of his birthday gone un-celebrated.
As we get deeper into quarantine, however, people have gotten creative with their celebrations. One result; the drive-by birthday party.
Let’s face it, watching friends cruise by while whooping salutations is not the party most kids dream about. But in this time of social isolation, the very act of seeing friends who are excited to celebrate can make a day significantly more special than the day-to-day family-only existence we’ve all been experiencing.
Last weekend alone, our family attended two drive-by birthdays, which I think pretty much makes me an expert. Here are a few things I’ve noticed.
If you’re throwing a drive-by birthday party:
Set a narrow time limit; about a half-hour. It feels more like a party or a parade when there’s a bunch of cars lined up honking and shouting well-wishes.
Whether you’re having the party at your house or at a park, make it festive. A party where guests never leave the car is a substantial obstacle to overcome. A few balloons or a sign make a big difference.
Party favors are a good way for the birthday kid to interface with each car, but be sensitive to your guests’ well-being and make sure that the child is wearing a mask and gloves.
Make it a surprise. One birthday boy was playing in the sprinklers in the front yard and was totally surprised by the caravan of cars that came to celebrate him.
Speaking of water, you might need it. As the temperatures rise, spending even a half-hour outside could get uncomfortable and a water toy could ensure that the birthday kid remains outside and in good spirits.
If you’re attending a drive-by birthday party:
Make a sign. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy, but holding a big “Happy Birthday” sign is infinitely more festive than merely calling out of an open window. If you have extra time (and you know you do), decorate your car. Think birthday parade.
Honk your horn.
If your car has a sun roof, use it.
If you bring a gift, put it into a bag for an easy, minimal-contact transfer.
If you can’t get a gift, think about picking up a tasty treat from a (local) establishment: cookies, donuts or ice cream.