Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lessons Learned

First of all, we WERE able to have Harper's party last night. I did have a fever Thursday night, but I did not medicate it because I wanted to know for sure if it had gone away. I woke up Friday morning feeling fine so we went forward as planned. (And fortunately the fever did not come back Friday night!)

If you'd asked me two months ago whether we'd be having a "friend" party for Harper this year I would have said no. Here's why:

1. We have a family party every year that involves both sets of grandparents, several aunts and uncles, and a couple of adult family friends. Even without extra children there are plenty of people and plenty of presents.

2. Do four-turning-five-year-olds really need a social birthday party?

3. I have gift anxiety about children's parties. Whether it's awful of me or not, there are certain toys I just don't want Harper playing with. I also think lots of families tend to buy things that children are truly too young for. I worry about her receiving gifts I'm uncomfortable with her having. I know I could take them away, but it's not like I can honestly expect her NOT to mention something like that at school.

4. Parties are often out of control expensive, and we aren't going there.


Harper was asking for a friend party. And I was feeling a little guilty about the parties that she's been invited to that we've never reciprocated. And I had what I thought was a simple and fun idea for a party. And I figured we'd limit it to just a few friends, no problem.

I thought it would be fun to have a pajama party, on a weekend evening, and do some things you might do at a sleepover, but not actually have the children sleepover (um, obviously!). AND since Harper is pretty jazzed about Tinkerbell these days I thought we'd have a Tinkerbell pajama party. How fun is that?

We were going to invite her best girl friend from school last year, a neighborhood friend that Harper's known since babyhood, and the two girls in her current class that she's closest to; that would have been four friends, a good number. Then, as I thought about it, I decided I shouldn't count out the one little boy who is pretty good friends with Harper, a friend she's also know since babyhood, just because it was a Tinkerbell party. I decided he should be invited and I talked to his parents about whether they minded that it would be all girls (they did not). AND THEN I decided (after consulting w/ the preschool teacher) that it might be kind of cruel to invite two of Harper's female classmates and not the other two - it isn't like she's in a class of a dozen girls. So then we had SEVEN children invited to the party.

My original plan was to have the children come over, play a Tinkerbell bingo game, do a small treat and gifts, and watch the new Tinkerbell movie and have popcorn. We'd put out cushions and beanbags and let the kids sprawl on the living room floor to watch the movie, just like a slumber party!

(Are you laughing yet?)

Fortunately Matt and I had been discussing things a couple of weeks ago and thought of some other game ideas for the party - we didn't end up using the bingo game at all.

Here are the things I didn't especially consider in my party-planning:

1. The children in Harper's class range in age from three to five. I sort of forgot that some of the party guests were potentially MUCH younger than Harper.

2. Not all the children might have Harper's number recognition skills - rendering even a simple number bingo game not a good idea.

3. Not all the children might be as inclined as Harper (who the TV has successfully zombified on command since about 18 months) to sit quietly and watch a movie.

4. Two-and-a-half hours is a really long time for a preschool birthday party. (You: DUH!)

SO we played games. We started with "Fairy, Fairy, Tinkerbell" (like Duck, Duck, Goose), which was a big hit. Then we played "Pin the Fairy on the Flower" with little Tinkerbell cutouts - this was also fun and hilarious for the observing adults when one child repeatedly tried to stick her Tinkerbell (they had double-sided tape on them) to the doorknob. The games were a success.

Then we we had birthday Rice Krispie treats (because I'm not a baker and didn't want to do cake two weekends in a row). Harper blew out her candles and then I discovered that two or three of the children (read: nearly half) don't like Rice Krispie treats (huh?). So we offered pretzels as an alternative and then everyone had a few pretzels and some also had a Rice Krispie treat.

Then Harper opened gifts. All the children were surprisingly attentive during this portion of events. She LOVED her gifts* and didn't receive anything inappropriate (score one for the other parents).

(Somewhere in this first part of the festivities we also had a mass bathroom break.)

THEN we got out the beanbags and turned on the movie. Here is where things started to unravel. Can you imagine what six preschoolers (two little girls couldn't come, in case you were counting) did with two huge beanbags in the middle of our living room floor?

They watched (or rather rolled around on the floor/danced/played with Michael's baby toys) the movie for about ten minutes and I decided the popcorn might help everyone sit still and watch. Which it did, for about ten more minutes, and then they were asking for more juice (because the popcorn made them thirsty) but I had only planned one juice box per child. In hindsight, providing identical plastic cups of water was probably not the best idea because then we spent the next several minutes trying to make sure none of the germ-ridden children drank out of another's cup.

When one of the little girls started wandering around I quietly asked her if she needed anything and she replied, "I need some toys." So I showed her where some of Michael's toys were and before I knew it three or four children were playing with his Fisher Price farm.

I had allotted slightly more than an hour for the children to quietly watch the movie so there was still a lot of party left when I (finally, oh my gosh I'm sure the other mother who was there was DYING) realized that we needed to do something different. I called Harper over and asked if she wanted to take her friends down to the basement rec room to play. She thought that was a great idea and we took them downstairs for a forty minute free for all.

There were tears (Harper's) when some children went into Harper's tent, which had apparently been specially set up for her dog and horse. Then more tears (again, Harper's) when a dress up knight's helmet was broken. I told her we'd fix it tomorrow and asked why she was so upset and she responded, "I'm just tired!"

So, yeah, the party was too late for non-movie watching preschoolers. The other parents must have thought I was insane!

With about ten minutes left we headed back upstairs and I read a couple of stories as the children's parents arrived to pick them up.

Despite the craziness I think the children all had fun. Today Harper said repeatedly today that her party was great. I suppose all's well that ends well.

Incidentally, I win the prize for the longest party-wrap-up post EVER. Sheesh!

P.S. Harper's HUGE SURPRISE wont' be revealed to her until her family party next Saturday, but I might tell you guys before that...

*During the first few minutes of the movie watching Harper just sat and STARED at her pile of gifts - so funny!


Lil Mouse said...

I guess 3 year olds might be a touch small for that type of thing, eh? oh well, you live you learn right? I'm glad everyone got age appropriate gifts. I'm not above taking toys back if need be. My husband unwrapped the '3 years and older' car that his mom got for K on her 1st birthday, you know the kind that plays music non-stop at the push of a button and doesn't have an 'off'? I wish we had taken the darn thing back, as it has been relegated to the shelf where she can't see it. I wanted a car for her to push, or a truck, not something she will sit and whack the button on for an hour straight. Everyone else complied with 12-18 month gifts, puzzles and pajamas, as requested. I wonder what Christmas will behold...

Swistle said...

This sounds great, and I think it went as well as kid parties ever go: there are always hitches and problems with kids who don't like or can't do what's planned. I'll bet the other parents were all thinking, "What a great idea for a party!"

I'm suddenly remembering my firstborn's 5-year-old party, when one child didn't want her picture taken and another child didn't like frosting. (There were two children invited.)

Emily said...

So funny! It IS really difficult to plan for what a group of preschoolers will be willing to do, or enjoy doing. Makes me appreciate preschool teachers - yikes!

And isn't the whole tv-watching thing funny? Katy is like Harper and always has been - mesmerized by it. But David won't sit down for 2 minutes, he couldn't care less. I know he's only 20 months, but I remember that by this age Katy would sit for 20-30 minutes.

And did you somehow indicate on the invitation that you wanted parents to drop off? Or did people assume? I hear of older kid parties where parents drop off, but I'm wondering how do you know? Every party Katy's been to all the parents have stayed, but of course she's only 3.

CARRIE said...

I love the idea of a non-sleepover sleepover party, and might steal it at some point. You deserve a medal for even trying!

Chris said...

You provided a great recap of the whole thing, Kelsey! To be honest, it gave me a good laugh, but I had a great time, so thanks for letting me stay. And most importantly, Harper had a blast. Nice job, guys!

Pam said...

I'm so glad it went well!
Keeping kids entertained indoors is hard, so well done you for keeping it going. My kid would have watched the movie - he's a telly addict too.