Dread does a funny thing. Usually, when I dread something, it tends to surprise me. Tends to turn out more fun, more interesting, or simply more bearable than I expected. Of course, most things are pretty much tolerable, and dread simply blows their potentially intolerableness so out of proportion that they’re not going to be that bad. Except for this.
A one-year-old’s birthday party, at some kiddie party venue somewere near Bothasig, in the middle of a deadline frenzy that hasn’t let up since some time in June. I’m beginning to wonder whether I’m the most un-fun child-hating killjoy parent in the world. But really, it was worse than expected. A dungeon of a venue, all painted a sort of Smurf blue. Fenced-in play areas with plastic balls littering the floor, and kiddie-sized slides and cushions and bouncy castles and jungle gyms. I guess it’s fun if you’re a kid. Maybe it was the ongoing high-pitched drone of the bouncy castle, but I was counting down til hometime.
There were the little plastic tables, laid out with paper boxes, each with a kid’s name on it. I have to admit to a feeling of secret glee when Kolya trundled over to someone else’s box to ferret around for Flings. What is this obsession with teaching kids propriety from the earliest age? This box has your name on it, and your meted-out ration of Party Stuff in it. The actual contents of the box are a bit dreary: a marshmallow fish, a packet of flings, a fizzer, some sweets in a packet. The kids who were old enough to already understand this all-hallowed notion of Mine peered curiously into the boxes. What is in here for me? Those that hadn’t quite grasped it ignored the boxes, or simply went for whatever grabbed their attention. I wondered: Why not have a tray on the table so that kids can choose and share? Is it about avoiding mess? Is it about avoiding negotiation? What is the point of all this individually boxed stuff? Is this useful?
(I saw this at the park a few days ago: Kolya had brought a ball. A slightly older kid was excitedly playing with it. His mom grabbed it out of his hand and yelled “It’s not yours, you can’t play with it.” A major tantrum ensued. It was entirely depressing. And what for? To teach the child some misguided notion of mine/not mine? What use will this ever be?)
The Smurf-blue-playpen hell didn’t just inspire less-than-charitable feelings towards other kids. It inspired similar feelings towards other parents and their weird weird ways. Maybe I’m just a hippie at heart, but the whole thing turned me right off. Does a one-year-old really want a party for thirty kids at a themed and catered venue? And does it have to be in a noisy Smurf-blue dungeon?
Today, a friend sent an invitation to a kids’ party at the farm stall out at Oude Moulen next week. Yay, I thought when I saw that. Chickens and goats. I somehow doubt there’ll be blue slush puppies and excesses of Fizzers. And – joy! – no whining generator for the bouncy castle. I think we’ll go, even if the deadlines are still looking rough. Maybe I’m not the killjoy bitch-parent-from-hell after all.