Must we fight for our right to party? | 10 to Twins | Jessica T | Mountain View Online |

Local Blogs

10 to Twins

By Jessica T

About this blog: I'm a late thirties mother of a ten-year-old and infant twins. My family moved to Menlo Park 6 years ago from Virginia - where I grew up, went to college, got married, had my first born, and got an MBA (in that order). I'm a manag...  (More)

View all posts from Jessica T

Must we fight for our right to party?

Uploaded: Sep 8, 2014
I miss a good party: a summer party with cold beers, twilight turned to darkness, ambient music, unexpected loose conversation. Or how about a brunch party with kids whizzing around, mimosas, bagels, and fruit? Maybe parties are what happens before you have kids - in college and graduate school. Maybe gathering an interesting group of one's friends, putting out a few drinks and snacks is too much trouble for anyone with kids, or maybe we're too busy?

There's another type of party that we've traded in the "invite your friends and have a good time" party for: the auction party. Many of our local public school districts raise money through private non-profit foundations, and one of the annual money-making events is the silent auction. I believe in quality public schools. As a former board member of the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation, I understand that our schools have suffered from diminished state funding, and I've been very happy to donate so that children across the community can continue to benefit from art, music, and physical education classes.

But I've never been able to get behind the "auction party," even though I've supported my fair share of them (even recruited hosts for them) over the years. Parties can be for adults or children. They are supposed to be open to everyone, but actually they are only for the kids in the class whose parents can shell out the ticket price (as high as $60 per child). Occasionally I buy my daughter a spot so that she won't feel left out, but I often think about the kids whose parents can't afford it. I think about the kids who overhear conversations at school and know they won't be going.

Then there are the adult parties. These are over-orchestrated, high-stress affairs where the only link between the guests is that we coincidentally got pregnant during the same decade, live in the same community, and paid the same price for admission. They almost always devolve into heavy drinking to ensure that we all get good value for our donation.

Why do we stand for exclusive parties for children and (frankly) bad parties for adults? And if we all want to support the schools, why must we insist on getting something in return for our charity?

I don't plan to host or attend future auction parties. Instead, I plan on throwing good parties, lots of them. This fall, join me in hosting a real party, just for fun. Don't break your back and over-plan it, don't charge anyone to get in - just bring your friends together and open up your home. You'll know it's a good one if people linger too long, the kids are hyped up on sugar, and your friends break out their silliest dance moves.

Support the local schools too. Write them a check and buy your own drinks.
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Louise68, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Sep 9, 2014 at 11:25 am


From the title, I thought your column was going to be just superficial whining. Boy, was I wrong! Your blog is very well-written. Bless your heart for caring so much about public schools, and for putting your money where your mouth is. Thank you for helping the MP Education Foundation. and for caring about people who cannot afford those phony, expensive fund-raising parties.

Yes -- bring back real parties! We shouldn't allow ourselves to be so busy that we have no time to socialize with our friends.

Posted by Stung, a resident of Barron Park,
on Sep 10, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Amen too! I felt the sting of having my child excluded from an auction party. At our school's silent auction, a parent won an auction prize which was a special day of fun with the teacher and 15 selected guests. The 15 guests ended up being 15 of the students in this teacher's class (even though she had 17 students total in her class.) Guess who got left out? Guess who had to hear "Why can't I go to this party everyone is talking about it?" I know this issue comes up with private birthday parties, but to have it so poorly planned by the school put me off this method of fundraising.

Posted by palo alto, a resident of Downtown North,
on Sep 10, 2014 at 3:35 pm

When my son was in elementary school, the auction parties were all the rage. I never attended any, I felt the same
as you. We party here at home, with our friends young and old. I always thought that these parties were an odd way
to socialize, and they did seem to be the only way that many people got together. I also thought that it was just me, glad to hear that others have the same experience.

Party on.

Posted by Jessica T, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Sep 10, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Jessica T is a registered user.

It's nice to know I'm not alone. Auction parties raise a lot of money for the Educational Foundations, so it will be hard for them to walk away from this norm without hearing from parents who are willing to give generously to make up the difference.

Posted by Ro C, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Sep 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Wow--great to read this--I'm behind your sentiment 100%!

Posted by Richardo, a resident of another community,
on Sep 14, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Hey Mark,
Sounds like your proportions are off -more women and song - less weed

Posted by Gina, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton,
on Sep 15, 2014 at 12:39 pm

I've long been irritated by the expensive fundraisers, especially by the ones that inevitably leave some children and parents out. My other irritation has been with the kids getting rewarded with toys for fundraising more than other kids. There's nothing like rubbing someone's nose in their lack of affluence.

Posted by Matthew, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton,
on Sep 17, 2014 at 1:09 pm

I?m sorry you "miss a good party", but there are in fact already plenty of good summer parties and get togethers that happen every summer, with and without kids, without the guise of raising money for PTO or school foundations. To paraphrase the old adage, ?if there?s a party in Atherton and you were not invited , did it not occur"?

Stating that the guests only get together because ?we coincidentally got pregnant during the same decade, live in the same community, and paid the same price for admission? while a cute sound bite, completely misses the reality that most people attend these functions to raise money for the schools, while hanging out with people they already enjoy hanging out with. I wouldn?t dream of going to one of these events if my existing circle of friends was not going. Maybe you?re just picking your parties wrong.

I find it funny the way you try to lend credibility to the argument when you say, ?As a former MPAEF board member?. Let?s call it what it is - you were a fund raiser, not exactly guiding the long term strategic direction of the school district. You took your turn raising funds through adult and kid parties like the rest of us, and now want to turn around and make these fund raisers seem somehow shallow or elitist.

If you?re going to raise money for the schools, why not do it in a social setting? In earlier blog posts, you talked about the virtues of actually listening to your kid and in another one about spending a day without your phone?.the benefits of actually talking to and listening to people. Now you?re expounding the fact that we should still donate, but just don?t do it in a social setting. I?m not insisting on a party before I donate, but if I can have some fun with my friends and it help the schools at the same time, why not do it? I don?t see how sitting at home on my own writing a check is somehow better. By the same token it?s not worse - to each their own, but I wouldn?t write a blog about it and insult the hosts of the events that you?ve previously attended. I hope they don?t read your blog.

And unfortunately with or without a $60 donation, in life there will be parties and circles that we won?t be invited to because of financial, political, social, cultural etc. reasons. That?s life. No point whining about it, or framing it as unjust. Enjoy the events that match your budget, interests and friends and ignore the rest. But try sending your son or daughter to Redwood City for a couple of slices of pizza, followed by popcorn and a movie and tell me how much change you have from $60, none of which goes to our precious foundations or PTOs. I?d rather have that money in the hands of our school teachers than Century 20 Theaters or Pizza My Heart.

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Mountain View Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Holiday Fun in San Francisco- Take the Walking Tour for An Evening of Sparkle!
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 3,312 views

Boichik Bagels is opening its newest – and largest – location in Santa Clara this week
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 2,282 views

I Do I Don't: How to build a better marriage Ch. 1, page 1
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,388 views


Support local families in need

Your contribution to the Holiday Fund will go directly to nonprofits supporting local families and children in need. Last year, Voice readers and foundations contributed a total of $84,000.