For a long time, when my kids were little, I refused to outsource the birthday party: I made a cake, invited the kids over, maybe used the “community space” in our building for games of some kind or another. The year that Liam turned four, when Caleb was still less than three months old, I decided it would be a good idea to host Liam’s entire nursery-school class (about 17 kids) –and their parents — to our apartment. We’d do a craft, I figure, and eat pizza, and really how hard could it be?
I still have nightmares. And the craft-related glitter stayed in my rug for years afterwards. If my sister hadn’t been there to help, I would probably have locked myself in a closet with baby Caleb slung across my chest in his sling.
Eventually, though, as the kids got bigger, our apartment seemed smaller and smaller, until outsourcing became inevitable. Plus, because Liam’s birthday is in November, one of those “let’s meet in the park and play” type birthdays won’t work – at least not in Manhattan.
The first year we lived in Abu Dhabi, Liam was able to have a beach party, which seemed remarkable at the time, but now, as is the way of things, has faded into just a fact of life.
Also our first year here, Liam was invited to a paintball party. You know, get a gun, fill it with plastic pellets and try to “kill” your opponents.
Despite being the kind of boy who never got enthralled by guns (no nerf, no pow-pow-pow with pointed finger; the kid doesn’t even much like super-heroes), Liam looooves paintball.
Every birthday he’d ask if he could have a paintball party, and every year we resisted and deflected and demurred.
But for turning thirteen, we relented. Not sure why—maybe because it’s a “big” birthday? Maybe because if we were Jewish or Zoroastrian or even Catholic, he would be having some kind of ritual ceremony to mark crossing the threshold into … adulthood? That seems a bit of a stretch. How ’bout crossing the threshold into the you-can-do-your-own-laundry-now hood? That seems worth celebrating, don’t you think?
And thus I found myself last weekend with a veritable herd of barely teen-aged boys at a big sporting complex that hosts paintball parties.
Because really, what better way to cement your friendships than with elaborate paramilitary exercises?
Here’s hoping these battles were just games and not a metaphor for the next few years. Because as metaphors go, I’m not liking the looks of things: