We have it all wrong when it comes to kids. We keep telling them they can't be bored, they can't feel bad, that's everything's OK, that at birthday parties you need to come home with a bag of extruded plastic in the latest shape and color or else it's a complete failure.
(Well, I don't, of course, simply because I'm one of the Greatest Parents Ever, and you probably don't either, for one reason or another. But we all know about Those Parents Who Do.)
Anyway. I was reminded of how we get it all wrong at John's party this weekend. It was a success, thank you. No tears, no wet pants, no bored kids (or if they were, they were too polite to say anything). The games went well and I think I had a pretty good idea of when interest started to flag, and I tossed out one game altogether because of it.
One of the games I billed as a "Star Race." I cut about 50 two-inch stars out of yellow construction paper and we spread them out on the table. At the other end of the room were four bowls. The kids had to run across the room with a straw, inhale through the straw and pick up a star, then race back and drop it in the bowl. Kid with the most stars by the end of the game wins.
It was a good game. They took it very seriously. One girl couldn't figure out how to inhale through the straw; she kept trying to "drink" it up. (She did not win.) Then the game was over, we counted stars and crowned the winner.
"OK!" I said. "Now we're going to -- "
"Hey, can I keep my stars?" asked one of the kids.
"Uh, sure," I said. "Put 'em in your goodie bag. Now we have to come over here and -- "
"We get to keep them? COOL!" hollered another kid. "Can I even have some I didn't pick up?"
"Yeah," I said, "But we'll sort them out after -- "
"Where are the rest of them? I didn't get so many.' "Oh, they're so pretty!" "I love these stars! This is the best!" "You mean we can KEEP THEM? And BRING THEM HOME?"
Construction-paper stars. They're beautiful, really, when you look at them.