Monkey went to a birthday party this weekend. Now, on the one hand: Monkey went to a birthday party this weekend. In fact, Monkey has received no less than four birthday party invitations since beginning his time at Hippie School, and if you’re a longtime reader I probably don’t have to spell this out (but I will, anyway, because saying it out loud makes me marvel all over again), but four birthday party invitations is… oh… roughly FOUR MORE than he received in the previous couple of years combined.
Hippie School is terribly tolerant and inclusive, and I love and cherish that so much, even if it means we get an invitation to a 5-year-old’s party and Monkey’s response is “Why would I want to go to THAT?” (Answer: Because you’re all one big happy family now, DAMMIT.) Of course, this opens up a whole new avenue for us, because now instead of him always being left out we actually have to PICK and CHOOSE from the MANY party opportunities. Which is weird. And wonderful.
Parties can be a little overwhelming for him, so we’ve turned down several invitations. But this weekend was Luigi’s party, so off we went.
I stuck around, too, which was mostly so that I would be immediately available if some sort of extrication was necessary, but true to the “one big happy family of varying levels of coping skills” nature of this group, there were some parents hanging out just to socialize, some hanging out to oversee, and some who dropped and left. So I didn’t feel weird about it.
Now. I love Luigi. And I love Luigi’s mom. Heck, I loved everyone there; this is the true glory of Hippie School, that even the kids who kind of drive me crazy or parents I wouldn’t necessary go out of my way to befriend, otherwise, are ALL people I feel kindly and protective towards. There’s ample common ground on which to form all kinds of bonds when there’s a tacit agreement that this is A Safe Space For All. It’s incredible.
So understand that this is not a criticism of the party or its hosts, just me telling you about MY PARTICULAR limitations and foibles and fears, okay?
Here’s the thing: I have one kid who is a delicate flower drama queen, and one kid who has major sensory issues. The older I get, the more I feel like my sole purpose on this earth might be to shout—metaphorically or otherwise—“BE CAREFUL!” at my children. And so it is in that context that I tell you this: I absolutely HATE the big blow-up bouncy houses and slides and stuff. HAAAAAAAATE.
Guess what Luigi had at his party?
Right there in the front yard was the big climbing structure/slide monstrosity, humming away from the air pump, enticing the children in its puffy, bright-yellow glory, silently beckoning them to MOUNT ME, FLING YOUR LITTLE BODIES AROUND WITHIN ME UNTIL SOMEONE STARTS TO CRY!
The children present ranged in age from 5 to 12, and no matter how many times Luigi’s mom went out there and explained to the kids that they should go down the slide one at a time, they should look out for the littler kids, and under no circumstances should they pile on top of one another, the children nodded and said earnest “Yes, ma’am”s and went right back to trying to kill themselves and each other. I think a child came inside crying about every ten minutes or so.
A marvelous thing happened. Monkey… handled it. Monkey demonstrated an amazing (okay, for him) amount of self-awareness, and after a few minutes on the bouncy slide decided he’d rather go do other things. While I was watching half a dozen boys try (and nearly succeed) to tip the whole thing over by congregating in one of the upper corners and leeeeeeeeaning as far over as they could, Monkey was patiently waiting for Mario to dismount and go play something else. Periodically he would wander back and talk to other kids, maybe lure another one away, or maybe he would sit in the little space underneath with another kid or two for a bit, but he knew that the crash of bodies up above would upset him, so he just didn’t do it.
He remembered his manners and waited patiently for a slice a cake without protest when I asked him to let the little kids go first. He enjoyed watching Luigi open his gifts, and then faced with the choice of “playing a little bit more” or heading home, said, “I think I’ve probably had enough for today.”
He then went and thanked Luigi’s mom for having him, and thanked Luigi for inviting him, and off we went.
Now, I know this is happenstance as much as it is progress. On another day, maybe Monkey would’ve insisted on staying on the bouncy thing, and knocked heads with someone, and it all could’ve gone very differently. The next party may be a complete disaster. But this was a really lovely way to spend a couple of hours, all things considered. Though I am still suspicious of air-filled bouncy things.
[Bonus for fellow Minecraft fans: Monkey made Luigi a card with a picture of a Creeper on the front, and wrote, “That’s a very nice birthday party you have there” on it. Ha!]