The last of the birthday festivities is finally behind us! Tonight we had a "friend" party for Harper. Actually we had a party for Harper and her friend Aaron who also has a November birthday. We decided to rent out a room and an hour of pool time at our local rec center and just invite the whole darn kindergarten class. While Aaron's mom and I both did some baking to make sure we'd have enough desserts, the prep was pretty minimal and look, no clean-up! That alone made the party worth every penny and it was even less painful when split two ways.
The party itself was utter chaos. We had a multi-purpose room set up with rows of tables for eating and a HUGE open space for the kids to run wild. We ended up with about 14 kids from Harper and Aaron's class at school and a couple of neighbors and assorted siblings. If you count the parents who took us up on our offer to stay we ended up hosting somewhere around 50 people.
The order of events went like this:
People arrive, children run around like wild animals. Things are very noisy and screechy.
Attempt to play a few organized games - Fish, Fish, Shark (like Duck, Duck, Goose), Red Light/Green Light, Sharks and Minnows (basically tag).
Sing Happy Birthday to Harper and Aaron.
Serve assorted desserts (cookies, brownies, rice krispie treats) and juice boxes.
Kids are done with dessert/juice in 2.5 minutes and continue to run wild until it is time to round them up for the pool.
Matt* goes over pool rules with kids (I have entirely lost my voice by now).
Send children to change.
Children swim until they are crying from exhaustion. The end.
It was a success, I think. Things were very, very scream-ish. The level of chaos we achieved is probably unavoidable with that many little kids but man, my nerves are shot.
Here are things we did which I think went well:
1. Invited parents to stay - the whole changing/swimming thing would have been a total fiasco otherwise.
2. Invited siblings along, technically we could have had up to 200 people or something like that in the pool so extra people weren't a big deal. I think the fact that siblings could stay/join made it easier for parents to stay.
3. Invited/hired an eighth grader that Matt has coached to come along and "help." It was especially good in the locker room and pool to have an extra set of hands. Also? Harper adores this particular girl and it was a little like having a celebrity come to her birthday party.
4. We asked people not to bring gifts. The words we put on the invitation were, "Your presence is present enough." Kind of cheesy but boy am I glad we did that. Our kids just don't need that many toys, you know? We talked to Harper and Aaron about this first and they both agreed that it would be fun to have a party even if they didn't get presents. We did however, also write that we'd happily make a donation to Toys for Tots in honor of Harper and Aaron's birthdays and welcomed people to bring a small unwrapped toy to donate if they wished. I felt as though that would address the feeling people might have of wanting to bring something to a party without inviting any oh-I-brought-a-gift-anyway awkwardness. Having tons of presents we don't need is one of my biggest concerns about having "friend" birthday parties. I cannot tell you how relieved I am that we have a basket full of toys to donate rather than a basket full of toys to incorporate into our already full house. I might be less inclined to feel that way if a) Harper's birthday wasn't so close to Christmas and b) we didn't invite the whole class.
5. We picked awesome, flexible, fun people to have a party with. How many people in the world could you call up and say, "We have this idea for a birthday party and wondered if you'd want to do it with us?" And then not want to kill each other? It was great. I mean, I shouldn't speak for them, but I thought it was a lovely partnership.
Things that could have gone better?
1. Should we have been more organized with games/activities? I don't know. I think anything we tried to do with that many kids would have devolved into chaos. I wish I'd done an anonymous post-party survey (not really) because I would love to know whether the other parents thought it was fine or were slightly mortified at our lack of structured activity. The children weren't bored, but they were cah-razy.
2. Should we have done it at an earlier time? We really only had this one day that would work to do it and things booked up pretty fast so our choices were limited, time-wise. It might have felt a little less insane if we weren't still swimming at bedtime.
3. Should I have taken a sedative before the party?
4. Should we have given the children a sedative on their way into the party?
I really can't think of much I would have done differently with so many children. And renting the big space and pool isn't really worth it if you're just going to invite a handful of kids.
We got home around 9 tonight and it felt like midnight. I can't believe how tired I am. Thank goodness we only do this birthday thing a handful of times a year!
*This shouldn't surprise me, but Matt was so good with the kids and with giving them directions. I think he should probably be in charge of all future group activities. I am passing the party planning buck to him. (Love you Honey!)