1. If tears are not shed the week before the party, you aren't trying hard enough. If your daughter is old enough for a slumber party, you are experienced enough to know the emotional build-up to any birthday is a tragic, unavoidable reality. This is particularly true for monumental celebrations (Hello, remember your 40th?) and especially brutal when a party warrants you to kick the husband and boys out of the house and invite a pack of girls to arrive in their place.
2. Everything must be perfect and fabulous. Chances are, you and your daughter will disagree on these definitions, but often that can help bring on the necessary pre-party tears. (Win win!) Stand your ground, wherever it may be. (My personal strategy is to fall somewhere between "Yes to the 12 kinds of sprinkles but No to the rented photo booth.")
3. You will need a wingwoman. Preferably someone who complements and balances you out. Someone who can apply makeup, make impromptu microphones out of aluminum foil and spatulas, laugh loudly with you and repeat quietly, "It's fine. It's fine..."
4. Speaking of makeup, you will need to stock up on new kits and sharpen your application skills. The natural golds and browns that fill your bathroom cabinets will have no place at this party. There will be two kinds of girls: those who want the dark, smokey eyes and those who want the bright, colorful ones. Watch out for the girls who pick the smokey eyes. Danger lurks in the shadows.
5. When the party is in full swing, there should be plenty of thumping music, but no lectures. Make peace with that right now. Even if you think you have an open mind about your daughter's taste in music, nothing prepares you for the moment when a favorite (uncensored) song comes on and every girl belts out bitch without missing a beat. (Insert your wingwoman: "It's fine. It's fine...")
6. The dancing will be silly and fun and campy for approximately 12 seconds, until a few girls (always the smokey-eyed ones) will whip out their best gyrations, hair flips and pouty looks. You will shoot photos, laughing casually and then uneasily. When one girl's hip-shaking move turns into a come-hither, crawling-on-the-floor maneuver, you might need to leave the room and pour yourself a glass of wine. No shame in knowing your limits. ("It's fine, it's fine...")
7. It is usually around this point of the party that the flash-backs/flash-forwards begin. Every moment from middle school and high school will come rushing back to you. Every sleepover, every awkward cotillion party, every Lucky Star line dance. You will see The Breakfast Club stereotypes appear before you and you will instinctively know which girl jumping on your hearth, or lounging on your couch, or contriving her body on the floor will be the Molly Ringwald, the Ally Sheedy, the Anthony Michael Hall. The future is now.
8. As the evening comes to a close, you will have to abandon your Fun Mom facade for your That Mom uniform. You might start with, "OK, girls, seriously time to go to sleep..." and then move to "If I come out here again..." but at some point you likely will find yourself standing silently in the dark, arms crossed, hovering over a pile of sleeping bags, your mere presence threatening even the slightest giggle. If you get here without tears, you will know you have arrived. You have earned yet another Mom Badge. Wear it proudly until morning.
9. The day after is always The Day After. Both you and your daughter will be hungover like you haven't felt since 1993. Sleep deprivation, sugar overload, post-party depression -- you name it. Consider this a mental dehydration that no amount of Gatorade or grease can cure. The only guaranteed solution? Trash TV and time.
10. With time will come recovery. Just like the days and weeks following childbirth, you will forget the pain and enjoy a simple nostalgia. You will wonder what the big deal was after all. Enjoy the delusions for a while because next year, mark my words, the party will be omigod even bigger and better!!