Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Point of a Party

A couple of posts back, I promised a reflection on Joy's sixth birthday party, a gathering that took place on May 23.

We've fallen into something of a pattern for these birthday parties, inviting families from church and the neighborhood and school, with kids both Joy's age and Rose's age.

The weather cooperated for playing out in the backyard, unlike last year (which was rainy and cold, to the point that we barely got out onto the deck). It was unusually warm, summery warm! Almost too warm for the bouncy castle, which heats up fast in the sun.

We had a fine turnout, and the kids were soon running all over the back yard and playing, and riding Joy's new and old trikes up and down the driveway.

The only one who wasn't having much fun... was Joy. She tolerated it OK, but all she really wanted to do was play with her mylar balloon and watch her videos.

Even the present-opening wasn't a thrill. Oh, she tolerated that too, and pulled on the paper and got them open. But when we looked at the photos JoyDad had taken of that part of the party, there wasn't a single smile on her face. (Though the presents were well-chosen and she's been playing happily with them since.)

Even our own big present, the big kid tricycle, we managed to bungle somewhat. After the party-preparations were in place but before the guests arrived, we decided it would be a good moment for the tricycle presentation. So we all trooped out the back door and I went to the back of the garage where the trike was hidden, to bring it out and surprise her as she got to the driveway.

Unfortunately, the family trooping out to the garage made Joy think she was going to get a car ride, something she loves to do. She was terribly disappointed that no car ride was forthcoming, and wouldn't even look at the trike as she expressed her displeasure.

Basically, the party worked for everyone but the person it was ostensibly celebrating. Not that it was a train wreck, it just wasn't much fun for our six-year-old.

Next year I hope to do better. One thought would be a series of birthday playdates, such that we could involve the friends but make it less a crowd situation. (And there will be new people in the circle; we'll need to work explicitly on involving kindergarten classmates, I think.) Another thought would be a pool party at a local motel, something that was a good success for some friends of ours a couple of years ago.

It's good to see possibilities for learning and growth, for Joy's parents as well as for Joy. Happy birthday, Joy, and here's to the upcoming year!


K- floortime lite mama said...

a very very happy birthday to Joy
We recently changed our perception of what a birthday celebration should be and finally got it right
Now to us it is about him feeling celebrated
Not about us celebrating him with others
This is what we did ( not suggesting that this is what you should do - that would be terribly presumptious ) - just sharing what we did

StatMama said...

Aw, happy birthday to Joy :)

What you write sounds very familiar. I sort of anticipated much the same when it came to my son (I got a glimpse when we had a birthday party for our daughter and our son just sort of looked freaked out much of the time), so we did not have a birthday party for him. Instead, we decided to take him to Chuck E Cheese's on a really slow night when there would be almost no one there. All of the lights and sounds are about as much as he can handle, though he loves to push all of the buttons on the various games. We live and learn, Joy Mama! That's all we can do.

Wishing Joy a wonderful year of being 6!

One Mom said...

Sounds familiar...I'm learning that parties and Chloe don't mix, either. And if she had been under the impression that she'd be getting a car ride, she'd have been inconsolable at the idea that she'd been duped. I can totally relate.

At the moment, since she's just three, we only do small family gatherings...and even that is a stretch on what she can handle. I'm not sure what we'll do as she gets older, but at least we've got a little while to try to figure that out.

Glad to hear the weather held out for the kiddos who wanted to play outside.

jess said...

it took us to seven to feel like we really had the hang of it. the parties have gotten smaller and smaller over the years and brooke's gotten happier and happier. not easy getting there, though! a very happy birthday again to your beautiful girl.

Elizabeth Channel said...

It is so difficult to strike the right balance. One year, none of E's friends could make his party (since I only invited a handful) so his brother's friends came instead. This was not such a great idea, and in retrospect I should have rescheduled the party to a different day so his friends could come. Since then I've made his party plans around the two or three friends I know need to be there, and that way he'll be happy even if the party is small.

fullsoulahead.com said...

We've had our share of overwhelming parties too, and we've learned.

Riley is more of a "tea party" girl than a birthday bash kid.

Low key all the way.

Happy Birthday to your sweet girl!