Thursday, July 17, 2014

Birthday Party

Last night, we had the third birthday party for The Baby. We had his bestie from preschool come over; when I ask The Baby about with whom he played at preschool, he'd answer this kid's name first. We had R bring over C & A from the next street over - we've played with these boys since we moved to Pittsburgh. They're wonderfully crazy little boys and a good influence on my kids. (Anyone who encourages my kids to take training wheels off, and anyone who encourages my kids to run around and climb is okay with me.) Grandma and Grandpa were there, of course.

It was perfect. We had pizza bagels, and fruit, and tuna salad. The pizza bagels had mushrooms on them, which are The Baby's favorites. We had juice boxes and water bottles, and we had party buckets with candies and shovels and sidewalk chalk. (Told you sidewalk chalk would be involved.) The bigger kids spent a big chunk of time riding their bikes around, highlighted by A (our neighborhood friend) taking his balance bike down our driveway, across the street (we grownups were sitting in the street, so cars were not an issue), up my neighbor's driveway, then through their bushes and onto their front yard.

Sigh. Our neighbors hate us enough as it is.

The Baby had a bit of a rough time for some of the party, when he was realizing that the cast wasn't letting him ride bikes or run around. Z's dad ported him and Z around in the wagon. The Baby also spent a nice chunk of time in the house with the grownups while the other kids were running around outside. As I said yesterday, there will be a period of adjustment while he gets used to his new reality.

We might have seen that before.

Highlight of the night: watching him blow out his candles from about four feet away from the cake. Nice lung power on that boy.


We've made a real effort to give the kids small, freely-moving parties for birthdays and such. Aside from the fact that I'm broke, we've tried to shy away from "event" parties, because they don't really fit our parenting style. We have tried to make a big deal out of little things, out of experiences and companionship and family. I understand that going to a baseball game with my son is going to create a long-lasting memory and feeling. It doesn't matter if it's in a luxury suite, six rows behind the dugout, or the last row of the upper deck. Sitting with the boys, talking with them, BEING with them, is what's important. Presents aren't an issue; they come when they come, and they're special treats regardless of whether it's a big video game or a dollar store juice box.

As one of my friends (KHM, who threatened to beat me up again, if I didn't mention her - or worse, she would no longer give me some of the incredibly delectable baked goods that she prepares and brings to work regularly) sent me a quote earlier today: "Children need their freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity." When we've done parties for the kids, we've tried to block off free time, block off as large an area as we can, throw a few toys, games, and crafts, and let them go do what they want to do. Watching them explore and exploring with them is a true joy. I know there will be a time for movie parties, show parties, and such that are based around EVENTS; I also know that I don't want to rush into that, if I can avoid it.

Our friend R, whose two boys were at the party, has done it exactly right, as far as I'm concerned. The first couple of birthday parties that she threw (that we attended, anyway) were in a large multipurpose room in a community center. They had some mats out, some toys on the mats, some face painting or something, and the kids played and climbed and fell and jumped and that sort of thing. This year, they're having a puppet show. That'll be cool - a nice, little event - my image is a 15-20 minute show in the middle of the party. A nice focusing agent, to which my kids might or might not sit still to watch.

That's not counting on the fact that a puppet show scared Little Bear half to death a few months ago. If he's forgotten or gotten over that, then we're good. Otherwise, he'll be outside playing.

Point being, particularly at this age, I don't think structure and events are the way to go for a party. Just give the kids somewhere to play and let them go. Gather them for cake and food and potty, and make sure that a grownup is close enough to supervise the really weird stuff. That's also acknowledging that it's a heck of a lot easier to do that kind of party in the summer, when parks are ample and outside is an easy option. Our friends with birthdays in January and February have more challenges.

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