My son, at 12, is no longer a willing wearer of a pointy party hat. He has no need for noisemakers. No yen for a piñata. We gave up goodie bags a few years ago, too.
Gave up on games
I gave up trying to plan party games when I realized I was pulling kids away from the fun they were already having in order to have them stand in line to pin a tail on a donkey (or unsuspecting party guest).
Thus turning fun and freedom into an experience eerily reminiscent of being in line at the DMV. Clearly, we need to save something for the 16th birthday.
This year our son wanted a barn party. He was very clear on this. He invited friends over to swim and play video games on the movie screen and sleep out in a tent they set up inside the barn.
Food, an extension cord and some sleeping bags? Yeah, I can do that.
Being very easygoing, he didn’t make any real requests, plans or “demands” for his party beyond “can we get pop?”
Being a boy, he is perfectly happy hosting his friends in a barn. It should be noted that this is by no stretch of the imagination a Better Homes and Gardens setting.
This a dark, cavernous structure decorated with cast-off furniture, a hand-me-down refrigerator and any errant skateboard or bicycle that might have rolled in.
His only request to add festivity to this awesome lack of atmosphere wasn’t that we sweep, paint or even go hog wild and put out some napkins. It was simply: “Mom, can we put a cover over the sofa? It’s flowered.”
Apparently, you can host your friends in a barn as long as you don’t ask them to sit on anything floral.
Despite the fact that the weather was a breezy 72 degrees (and the swimming pool a frosty 76), upon arrival every last party guest jumped willingly into the pool.
Cannonballs were the theme of the day and joyous shrieks were heard as they dragged each other on and off the deck, pushed and pulled one another into the pool and attempted to strangle each other with sodden pool “noodles.”
At the risk of making sexist assumptions, I will note that of all the little girls we’ve had over to swim, not a single one of them has ever seen a squishy purple pool toy as the ultimate fighting weapon. Boys, I see now, are different.
Apparently “child’s play” at 12 looks an awful lot like assault.
Mr. Wonderful assisted in the festivities by randomly squirting the boys with a garden hose if they seemed to be settling down even the least little bit.
Having achieved just the right shade of “blue from cold,” the boys were dried off and fed. I think the real key to any great party is, after all, the food. We offered an amazing array of poor nutrition. Pizza, soda, candy, ice cream cake and chips.
The rest of the evening was spent playing games, watching movies and running around the yard shrieking.
As they finally settled down in the barn for the evening there was, of course, a bat. There is always a bat. I’m told the poor thing swooped into the barn through an open window and right back out again when he saw what he was up against.
Bats, after all, aren’t half as brave — or possibly stupid — as your average parent. Unlike Mr. Wonderful, who played chaperone and slept all night in the barn too, bless his heart. There was no room in the tent for him so he spent the night on the flowered sofa.
The cover slipped off and he was, in fact, exposed to the flowers. No word yet on if his masculinity was threatened.
I was awakened at 5 a.m. as my son stage-whispered (loudly) his request for doughnuts (clearly the earlier sugar had worn off). He further asked if they could wash that down with even more soda. I’m told they woke Mr. Wonderful at 5:25 a.m. and asked him to look at the moon.
After a long night of little-to-no-sleep, far too much sugar, endless games, one wayward bat and an activity involving a rubber mallet, aluminum cans and randomly jumping off things that ended in a broken window and minor bloodshed, our guests were retrieved by their parents promptly at 11 a.m. the next day.
As we packed the boys off, I worried that this was a new low even for my previously slack standards. Instead, each boy as he left said the words that warmed my heart. “That was the best party ever!” and “When can we get a barn?!”
Martha Stewart, eat your heart out.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt likes the slumber part of slumber parties best. She welcomes comments and party planning tips c/o firstname.lastname@example.org; P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or http://kymberly.typepad.com/life.)
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