Monday, October 15, 2007

Why some people never have children

Actually, I think five-year-old birthday parties are pretty low down on the list of reasons why some childless couples choose to remain that way.  But that's only because they don't know how bad it can get.

Last year, Rachel let Matthew invite six (?) friends to a party. Four came. It was fairly manageable.

This year, counting on a similar acceptance ratio, she let him invite nine friends.  All of them came.

Perhaps the best summary was offered by Rachel's friend Jessica, who stayed for the duration of the party with her two daughters that Matthew had invited -- one a little older than he, the other a little younger -- and two younger sons.  I don't know why she stayed.  Maybe she just didn't want to drive back and forth again since she lived about 10 minutes away.  But I think it was more likely simply morbid curiosity, just like you can't look away from a train wreck you know is coming.  

Anyway, Jessica pointed out that "Wow, little boy parties are very different from little girl parties.  Little girls like to sit, and talk, and follow instructions.  They don't hit each other or wrestle or run off away from the activity."  Which our guests did constantly.  When there wasn't anything obvious to hit each other with, like Matthew's lightsabers or swords, they'd find something else.  Like teddy bears.

Rachel reminded me that "testosterone starts affecting boys' brains in the womb."  I believe it.

Matthew's party theme was superheroes.  (Of course birthday parties need a theme!)  Rachel tried to get him to accept an offer of a pirate party, but he would have none of that.  As a compromise of sorts, she managed to get him to broaden his demands for a Buzz Lightyear party into one to which all superheroes would be accepted.

Mostly Rachel wanted a pirate party because it's incredibly easy to come up with pirate-oriented activities for attention-challenged youngsters.  But she did pretty well with the superhero theme: first there was a "training camp," with races and bean bag throwing contests and the like.  Then there would be a "mission," where Rachel had a trail of photo clues leading from one location to the next and finally to a pinata.

We did have to improvise briefly after the last training episode -- a race around the house.  Matthew fell and threw a tantrum, some of the other kids were arguing about who cheated, two kept having sword fights, and at least one was inclined to wander off and explore the house.

Rachel called an emergency meeting of superheros, with popcorn.  The heros ate the popcorn with gusto and order was (briefly) restored.

Then we did the photo clue mission, which went as planned except for the oldest guest running around picking up clues out of sequence, which left me running around putting them back.  Then the pinata was duly destroyed, candy was put into bags for when they left, cake was served, and presents opened.

Then everyone left, we swept up all the popcorn and cleaned away the cake, put the kids down for a nap, and fell asleep exhausted ourselves.

The party ran from 11 to 1, but what with pre-party cleaning and preparation, and post-party cleanup and recovery, it really was an all day thing.  (I woke up from my nap at 5.  I needed it.)

I wonder if there's a way to distract Matthew from having a party when he turns six.  Maybe if we're out of the country for all of October, for instance... 

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