Thursday, August 16, 2012

Another day, another party at the bounce-house warehouse

It’s true, despite just having been there not too long ago, this Tuesday my two munchkins and I found ourselves back at the local house-a-bounce-a, as the little guy had been invited to a birthday party once again. It was a slightly different experience going on a mid-week evening rather than a weekend afternoon, and to be honest I’m not even sure if the reasoning behind the scheduling was so that the party could be on the birthday girl’s actual D.O.B., or because the host family is just as overscheduled on weekends as we are, or because the facility is significantly cheaper to reserve on a Tuesday than a Saturday. The honoree in question is someone the little guy met at a neighborhood Gymboree-style place, where my wife would take him to get him out of the house on their days off from work/daycare, and the honoree’s mom and my wife hit it off pretty well, hence the kids get invited to each other’s birthday parties but all I really know is when and where we’re supposed to show up. Of course lately my wife has been working double-time on Tuesdays, teaching in the morning and working at the vet clinic in the evening, which means I was on solo parental escort detail (not that I minded) but which also means the kids had been up since the crack of dawn and dropped off at daycare extra early, so by the time we arrived at the 6 p.m. party, I suspect they were both a lot more tired than they would normally be on an average Saturday afternoon. The little girl was extra-clingy, and the little guy was only semi-enthusiastic about running around, jumping, sliding and so forth. As I said, a slightly different experience.

The standard birthday party template, as I’ve ascertained it, has the kids going nuts on the bounce-houses for a solid hour, after which they are summoned to the party room where they can have food and drinks and the birthday-haver may open gifts and hand out goodie bags, the end. When the kids arrive they all dump their shoes in one big bin and hit the bounce-houses in their socks; the staff empties out the bin in front of the door to the party room and lines up all the pairs of shoes right before they summon the kids, and the kids put their shoes back on and line up and each get a squirt of hand sanitizer, and then the door is opened and the kids can all grab seats at the long picnic table where there are place settings and Capri Suns waiting. I’m drawing this detailed picture so that I can mention that, on Tuesday, when the staff called the kids to come get ready for the next part of the party, my little girl not only went quickly toddling in the proper direction (with no urging from me) but walked right up to her own pair of shoes in the line, picked them up, and turned around to come back to me, brandishing her footwear in an unmistakably “You need to help me put these back on!” way. She is kind of a super-genius.

And in all fairness, the birthday girl’s mom might be some sort of super-genius too. The first 60 minutes of these parties are, as I mentioned, just kids running wild, but it’s the back half that can either be tightly run or a bit of a mess. And Tuesday was very much the former. The kids went in and sat down and each had a slice of cheese pizza waiting for them. There was also a pepperoni pizza for the parents, and birthday-mom walked around the room handing slices of that to the parents who wanted some. I’m pretty sure she only ordered two pies, which was exactly enough slices for everyone at the party. As soon as the pizza was gone, boom, time for cupcakes, and again there were exactly enough for each attendee. “Happy Birthday” was dutifully sung. As soon as the cupcakes were finished, boom, the birthday girl started opening her presents. Birthday-mom was appropriately enthusiastic about how awesome and wonderful all the gifts were and ensured that her daughter said thank you for each one, but there was absolutely no lingering appreciatively over any of them. Open, open, open, done! Hand out the goodie bags! Thanks for coming everybody! It was a dazzling display of efficiency, but still managed to feel like fun and not an enforced agenda. I gotta say, I really appreciated that. Whatever the imperatives that put the party on a weekday evening, at least everything was done to make sure that it was no inconvenience. Gotta feed the kids anyway, so dinner was served. Gotta get the kids home and ready for bed, so let’s get through the formalities without any delays. Not bad at all!

And speaking of not bad at all, the little girl found the pizza quite to her liking. She, in fact, positively chortled with joy as she ate it. I had to hold the slice for her as she took itty-bitty bites of it, but every time she got some in her mouth she would, literally, look at me and smile with her lips closed and jaw working and make little “hm-hm-hm-hmmm!” laughing noises of delight, and then immediately open her mouth for more as soon as she swallowed it down. She also kicked her chubby little legs with excitement more or less non-stop. It warmed my heart, and made me feel much less guilt about keeping her out past her bedtime, if she enjoyed the dinner so very much. And if that means I can look forward to many a pizza party on her future birthdays, if it’s now and forevermore her favorite food, I can be pretty enthusiastic about that, myself.

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