How To Have A Pod Party

Maybe it was all of the conversations I had with my Berlin friends, who subconsciously taught me how to live with the virus. Not as, it’s in my system kind of live. But, it’s not going anywhere, and let’s pray your state and country deals with it kind of way. And while our country has failed to come to task, I withhold the “tisk-tisk” judgment for my fellow New Yorkers. Because, through an unimaginable time, we did something unimaginable, we took it seriously. We stayed home. I know there are situations and people in which this need not apply. But I’m talking about the big picture. The evidence in the numbers for our state and city. And maybe, that evidence alone is where my own comfort lies these days. 

I can’t pretend Covid has disappeared, or that the rate in which it disproportionately impacts brown and Black people, no longer exists. And at the same time, I am unwilling to write off the rest of my life and my kids’ lives for the year until some non-promised vaccine turns up. In an effort to broach the subject with reality and care that I find necessary, I have repeated a “live with” saying in my head. Which in huge part, can only be considered because we just stopped living without for months on-end. This approach is applied to birthday parties too. 

I’ve never been the parent to give gifts frequently or in mass on birthdays. I hauled bamboo cutlery and glass mason jars to almost every party. For summer birthdays, parks have always served as backdrops. For winter birthdays, our homes (no matter the size) did the trick. For cake, I usually made something that isn’t entirely amazing, but presents itself with ample amounts of personality. And for invitees, I usually send one to everyone and their mama, too. I used to go all out, with little in regards to the margins of care required now. 

Last week, Oak turned six. And after a jolted cancelation of school, removal of friends and a willingness to stay the course and stay in with his small family, I decided that my old rules of what to give and how to give were gone now. The prospect of a party as a celebration of life, seemed more immediate too. In contrast, these two worlds of giving and celebrating in this way, were bound to meet in a Pod Party.

Lately, as New York City has moved into phase two of reopening, I’ve been polling friends about their live with approach. Testing the bounds of their comfort. And in return, mapping my own. Without a doubt, the consensus remains unique for New Yorkers. We are tender, nervous, tired, cautious, eager,  and confused, equally. And at any of those intersections, we have to weigh the multitude (as do many do). If I look ahead (which I have tried not to), I can only remain hopeful for the skills we develop as adults and newly-minted six year olds. Skills that will help us forge ahead, and that make the avenue of care one in which is more delicate. It is radical, when you truly think of it.  

What To Create:

A Birthday list. Sort of like a Christmas list. But for birthdays. I’ve never done one with my kids. I usually take note of what they’ve expressed or what I think they need. This was a fun way to lead up to a party, that made it feel more celebratory. 

A name. Calling it a Pod Party, immediately put the party in context for myself and for the kids. By explaining what it means to have a pod, and how we are moving along with our own pod as we venture out into the world a bit, was helpful. (We had another family that self-isolated for months like we did, so we included them in our pod for play. Then, when things opened up a bit more, I included my sitter into my pod. Since then, we have expanded to a few families and friends that also remain cautious and safe, and/or who have been tested for covid and remain cautious and safe. We will be expanding as time and people prove safe enough.)

Find A Setting:

A park or a yard. While we have a backyard that works well, our park has been our yard in many ways the last few months. And so, it was fitting that we hosted it there. Per CDC recommendations, gatherings  with open air is best.

Table or picnic. Your choice! I was willing to do either. But at our park, a table under a giant tree, that provided shade throughout, was perfect.

The right time. I stuck to two hours in the early afternoon. Summer is here, and the sun is often ablaze. So I picked two hours before peak sun time, but not too early. 

What to Eat:

Keep the packaging. For many years, I’ve tried hard to not use packaging or order food for a party.. But to keep everyone safe, packaging is your friend. For some, it may not be worth it. I understand. I tried to limit it as much as I could, but ultimately chose the path that felt right. 

Food included: 



Oranges (no packaging!)


Juice boxes and large bottles of water for pouring

A large box of pizza from Oak’s favorite place

Buy Black. This was the first time I’ve ever purchased a “fancy cake.” And it was worth it on so many levels. The cake was made by BCakeNY. A Black-owned bakery in Brooklyn. It is important to be conscious of support on all levels and at all corners. 

Precautions to Take:

Follow rules. Lay out your own. It is that simple. It seems like many people oscillate between not following the rules at all, and neurosis. I find myself squarely in the middle. While rules can be confusing, if you adapt what is written, things should be easy and clear.  

Includes masks for everyone, and not showing up if you’re feeling ill. Simply put, hanging out with Covid-19 around is like having sex without a condom. You need to trust your partner(s).

Only one adult per family. Gone are the days where everyone and their mama needs to come to a child’s party. And isn’t that grand? A huge part of me welcomes this development. Any way to shake up the normative approach in how people parent, yes please!

Make the invite list visible via a digital invite. Transparency is key here. Let the invitees know who’s coming and how many. 

Speaking of, only invite people and families you trust. For me, these were families that I knew were self-isolating,  keeping a pod, had recently been tested, and/or people we had been around in the last few months with and without masks for any reason. 

Bring Hand sanitizer and gloves. The hand sanitizer came in hand more times than I naturally thought about. And the gloves too! When it was time to cut the cake, I really needed to hold it up like I usually do, and grabbed gloves and wore them for cutting and serving. 

You are living, enjoy it (ultimately, with risk and safety at hand).

Parties have become part of my personal culture, but I don’t think I appreciated them in such a way until now. We played music, we talked, and we laughed. Details are necessary and important. But fun can still be had. I’d argue, given the time, being in the presence of others to celebrate life is quite special these days. 

22 thoughts on “How To Have A Pod Party

  • Reply Claude June 24, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    Happy 6th Oak! It sounds like you have a perfect balance of being safe and still living your lives. I’m so glad you could celebrate.

    • Reply latonya June 29, 2020 at 7:40 am

      thank you love!

  • Reply Susan Krzywicki June 24, 2020 at 1:24 pm

    Wow, this brings a clarity to the party situation. Thanks.

    • Reply latonya June 29, 2020 at 7:40 am

      Hi Susa,

      You’re welcome.


  • Reply Kyla June 24, 2020 at 4:05 pm

    Thank you so much for these suggestions. My middle guy turns 4 next month and we’ve been trying to gather ideas as to how to do it safely.

    • Reply latonya June 29, 2020 at 7:40 am

      Hi Kyla!

      Glad this was helpful!


  • Reply Nicole Young June 24, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    Thank you for sharing all these practical details and your thoughtful reasoning. Your post provided solace in these Covid times. I love parties, too, and miss the ability to freely gather and celebrate.
    PS I recently purchased your book and enjoyed getting to know you better from reading it and seeing all the great photos.

    • Reply latonya June 29, 2020 at 7:41 am

      Awww thank you so much for buying the book, Nicole!! It really means a lot to me. And I am happy that this post could provide solace. We all are needing it (including myself).


  • Reply Sarah June 24, 2020 at 4:14 pm

    Happy birthday to Oak! I am so grateful for this post – I have a boy turning 8 in two weeks and have been agonizing over how to celebrate him safely.

    • Reply Frances June 25, 2020 at 1:45 pm

      I love this idea! I think it can work for adults, like myself, who are really starting to miss friends but are worried about Covid. Thank you for sharing ways to be in company while also staying safe and sane!

      • Reply latonya June 29, 2020 at 7:42 am

        Hey Frances,

        YES. It is not just meant for the kids. I’ve adopted it too!


    • Reply latonya June 29, 2020 at 7:41 am

      Hey Sarah!

      So glad it was helpful!!!

  • Reply Tara June 24, 2020 at 4:19 pm

    Love these sentences: “Without a doubt, the consensus remains unique for New Yorkers. We are tender, nervous, tired, cautious, eager, and confused, equally.”

    • Reply latonya June 29, 2020 at 7:42 am


  • Reply alisha June 24, 2020 at 5:45 pm

    Lovely celebration! 💕 Great thoughts and tips.

  • Reply Evelyn Squadrille June 24, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    Happy Birthday Oak

  • Reply Tori June 24, 2020 at 10:06 pm

    Happy Birthday, Oak! And, LaTonya, thank you for this. I just had my first pod-playdate for my daughter yesterday with a coworker/mom friend—our kids attend school together. We had all been mostly quarantined since early March (the tornado here in Nashville shut much of our city down before COVID did). So many feelings about our decision, but mostly feelings aligned with yours: we have to live with this somehow until it’s controlled. You put into words (gracefully as always) what I couldn’t. I hope y’all had the best day.

    • Reply latonya June 29, 2020 at 7:44 am


      I’m so happy you got to spend time with friends and find a balance that works. And as always, thank you for reading. I am really happy and honoured that my words find a home with readers like you.

  • Reply Ashlie June 26, 2020 at 6:47 am

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the concept of a “pod” or “bubble” and I love the ideas for safer parties. Middle ground has been difficult for me during this pandemic. This post was enormously helpful. Happy Birthday, Oak!

    • Reply latonya June 29, 2020 at 7:45 am

      Hi Ashle,

      I hear you! it is all so difficult.

      Sending love,

  • Reply Bethany June 28, 2020 at 11:12 pm

    I enjoyed your thoughts immensely. Your approach to adapt, to not apologize for what is necessary, and to be free to celebrate even in the heavy times is so refreshing. I hope to one day mother as insightful and creative as you. Happy birthday, Oak!

    • Reply latonya June 29, 2020 at 7:43 am

      Thank you so much for reading, Bethany!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *