Report cards and yearbook are finally done! There was a lot of work to crunch into the short period since I returned from OELC (more on that later), but still doesn’t feel like as much of a survival accomplishment as MY SEVEN-YEAR-OLD’S BIRTHDAY PARTY.
This is the first proper party we’ve had for him, with his friends from school. I feel bad that that’s the case, but I can admit I’ve been putting it off. And I’m confident that he’s never felt deprived on his birthday, what with three sets of grandparents and lots of other people who like to celebrate him (/give him presents).
And this year, with a bigger space to have guests over, it seemed like a good option to just invite E’s friends here. It’s what he wanted, and it’s the kind of party that’s familiar to me. When I was a kid (E and AB just adore the stories that begin like this – no, really!) we hung out in our friends’ rec rooms and pinned tails on things and duck-duck-goosed each other, and sometimes there were piñatas, and usually balloons, and always loot bags, and I remember one long conversation about barfing at the lunch table of one friend’s party. Uncomplicated fun.
Nowadays, I’m frankly intimidated by the standard for birthday parties. It seems many parents either go all out on a coherent theme (e.g. Frozen, Ninja Turtles, etc.) or book a venue… Or both. E has been invited to six different birthday parties this year: one at the movies, two at gymnastics places, and three at the new trampoline park.
I understand that it’s nice not to have to think about how to entertain the kids – it’s built-in entertainment! And you don’t have to clean your house, before or after. I just balk at the precedent that’s set once I start booking venues – especially the financial part of it.
And now… I fully understand that eight seven-year-olds partying in your house is simply scary.
(Reminder: I teach young children for a living. I still wasn’t prepared.)
They converged on us almost all at once, TEN MINUTES EARLY. Gah. We should have been completely ready, but we are us. So we weren’t. I did not get the chance to lay down the party rules. (Is that a thing? I don’t know, but it is for me.)
We got everyone directly out to the backyard, where they immediately took the bait: soccer balls, Wham-O Trac ball and rackets, and E’s brand-new archery set with Nerf darts. But they didn’t stay there. They were all around the house, seemingly blown by the high winds that day, and suddenly some of them were inside – and they blew down to the basement and got busy redefining ruckus – and naturally one of the cats had puked on the carpet and Sean did some emergency cleanup and I lured them back outside with the mini-trampoline (not before there was a bit of puke-trackage, though).
The next thing I knew, three or more of them were back in, tromping up the stairs towards the “secret closet” (storage area only tall enough for kids to stand up in) and the bedrooms. NO WAY, dudes. So back out they went, but I still had to tell my own son and one friend NO SECRET CLOSET one more time before they took me seriously… Because of course, E had become a wild wired wacko of a birthday boy in the intoxicating presence of his friends. Inside voices be damned.
AB was joining in where she could, hopping on the trampoline and yelling, “This is the BEST PARTY EVER!!” like a kid in an 80s movie. The boys mostly know her from the school yard and they were nice enough. But I couldn’t help but worry that we were going to lose somebody, or that there would be grievous bodily harm of some sort. Even with three adults on the premises, it felt like a spiralling crazy-fest.
And then, Auntie Beth worked the magic. We had asked E if he minded sharing his brand-new face paints from Auntie Emi, and Beth just sat outside and painted a tiger face on AB. And wouldn’t you know it, those hurricane-kids lined up. Some for at least half an hour. Quietly. Watching the painting, discussing what they wanted on their faces. I reminded them, “You can go play while W. is getting his face painted, if you want,” and they were all, “But we’ll lose our place in line!” We even opened presents on the patio while the painting was happening, and the calm remained.
By the time we went back inside for snacks and cupcake-brownies, we had two Ghostbusters faces, three Lego Ninjago, two Ninja Turtles, and one Harry Potter. And one wee tiger. (By the way, I highly recommend cupcake brownies for a party. Not as messy as cake or iced cupcakes, no forks necessary, easy to stack up for a cool-looking birthday-candle apparatus, and we added a bit of optional shaky-style whipped cream, which is automatically exciting. One boy did lose a tooth on his, but I don’t think it was the brownie’s fault.)
Funnily enough, when the kids sat down to eat, it was easy to see that they’re a genuinely nice bunch; they have manners and everything. And they’d had a really good time, with no gymnastics or movies or even a piñata – or a secret closet, for that matter. (We did have loot bags.)
Would we do it again? Hmm… We’ll just see how we’re feeling at this time next year.