A wise man once said “All the best social observations are made from behind a trestle table, whilst sneakily eating a wotsit and pretending you don’t know all the words to Hakuma Matata” Alright, no-one ever said that (apart from me just then), but here’s my kid’s party social observation anyway:
Some kids are actually good losers. They don’t mind whether they win or not, they actually sign up to all that “taking part” business. When they get told they are out in musical statues, they skip to the row of chairs at the side, cheering on the other participants with a smile on their face.
Some kids are competitive, but can still accept that they won’t always win. These kids will be at the front in musical bumps, concentrating hard. They will be watching your hand as it reaches for the control to turn the music off. They are the one calculating exactly how many layers there are left on the pass the parcel, to work out how much they want to be the one holding it when the music goes off. When they lose, they might scowl a bit. They might try to point you in the direction of “Harry” over there, who definitely wobbled a bit and really ought to be out first. But they will at least accept their consolatory packet of losers haribo, and take their scowly face to the losers line.
Not so my daughter. My daughter absolutely cannot accept that she is out. Even before the adult has decided who is going out, she starts crying and panicking. If it is actually her who is last, she will scream. Nothing will placate her. She needs to be in the game. She plays to win. She cheats, she tries to change the rules, she argues, she tantrums. It is as if someone has invited the terrible love child of John McEnroe and Maradona to a 5th Birthday party, and handed her a can of red bull just to make sure she’s totally fired up.
The last time we tried to play pass the parcel, I had to remove her from the game before it had really begun. She point blank refused to actually pass the parcel. The irony of the Disney CD blaring out “Let it go” in the background was entirely lost on her, and regardless of how loudly Elsa was belting it out, there was no way on God’s earth my daughter was going to let go of that parcel. On suggestion that she needed to actually pass the parcel, or maybe we should sit this round out and re join the game in a bit, she started to panic. She remembered about the sweets in between layers. She knew there was a chance she might miss out. She started to rip off that illicit layer, she knew she shouldn’t, but she just couldn’t help herself. She was committed, she went all in, ripped it off, nabbed the haribo and threw an epic tantrum to rival a toddler.
So now, kids parties make me anxious. I absolutely know – without question – that she is going to have a meltdown. I know that other parents will look on with a depressing mix of pity, and gratitude that she isn’t theirs. But she loves a party. She gets so excited when there is an invite in her school bag. She cant wait to go. I, on the other hand would rather put my head in an oven than take her. But obviously I’m not going to stop her going. That would be tantamount to child cruelty.
So where do we go from here? I try to prep her before we go, we talk about the fact that there might be games, I reassure her that it doesn’t matter if you win or not. And in the comfort of our house, she is happy to accept that. However upon crossing the party threshold, she loses all reason and perspective. It’s like that party invite also contains a one way ticket tantrumsville.
My friend suggested practicing party games a bit at home. Doing some rounds of musical bumps and experiencing being a loser in a controlled home environment. But as one of life’s true winners, I just don’t feel qualified to offer that training. Oh no, sorry I appear to be confusing myself with Beyoncé again. Anyway, I bet bloody Blue Ivy doesn’t scream until she throws up if she doesn’t win musical-tossing-bumps.