As the big Oh-Four approaches for Jack, he wanted to celebrate with a party. Steve and I agreeed, figuring we'd have something at our house. I started talking to Jack about the guest list, mentioning the friends at school who he talks about the most. Jack shook his head, then said he wanted to invite ALL of his friends, meaning his entire class. Then, he said that he wanted to invite everyone except for one little girl who is his nemesis. We explained that no, you do not invite everyone except for one kid, because that's mean, and because near as we can tell, she is just a little girl, and not, in fact, the root of all evil in the world.
I'm sure you'll all be glad to hear that Jack's Nemesis was unavailable for the party, as Jack was convinced she would break all of his toys and burn our house down. And I am equally sure you will be stunned to hear that Steve and I successfully hosted 14 little kids Jack's age in our house and lived to tell the tale.
The key, I think, is that we left absolutely nothing to chance. Every aspect of the party was planned and scheduled. The timeline was 2-4:00 on a Sunday, a short period to entertain everyone. We moved all of Jack's toys up to his room so that he wouldn't worry about anything being lost or broken, and we cleared out the front closet so there would be plenty of space for everyone's coats.
Food was minimal - we had out cheese and crackers, chips, veggies, two kinds of dip, chocolate covered pretzels (made by Jack and grandma) and a crock pot of meatballs. We made no attempts whatsover to get the kids to eat any of that food; it was for the parents, and if the kids wanted something to eat in a driveby, they could do so with relatively little fuss or mess. We had cake, of course. Jack selected a Pirates of the Carribean cake, which meant it had a lovely picture of Johnny Depp on it.
Steve and I wrote a careful schedule of events so we'd know exactly how things should flow. First, we had several minutes for the guests to arrive, during which time Jack entertained them by leading them running around the house screaming. Then, it was time for games. We planned Pin the Tail on the Donkey, which is simple and everyone likes. Then we played Musical Pillows, which swapped chairs for pillows, since that's easier. After that, I set up a bean bag toss, giving each kid a Santa or Snowman stuffed toy that I got at Target for a buck. They stood on a line that I made with painter's tape and got as many tosses as they needed to throw the toy into a bucket - and they got to take the toy home. After that, Steve led the kids in a round of Simon Says, emphasizing silliness rather than competition.
During Simon Says, I hid clues around the house for a treasure hunt. We divided the kids into two teams (since there were so many of them), and they followed a series of clues all around the house. I planned the clue locations so that they'd move around a lot and so that the two teams would overlap as little as possible. The treasure was, of course, their goody bags.
Next, Jack opened his presents. Because the other kids had all just gotten a big bag of party junk AND a stuffed animal, no one was jealous of Jack's new loot. We had been practicing for weeks how to react politely to presents - even if a gift is something you already have or is lame (example: Hannah Montana doll), you smile and say thank you. All the practice was for nothing, because Jack's presents were all awesome. He was very happy indeed. I was especially pleased to see how much thought Jack's friends had put into the gifts. Emma, for example, was very excited to give Jack a Star Wars Leggo set because she knew he'd love it. McKenna told her mom that they needed to get Jack a Diego toy because he has a Diego backpack. These are some really nice, considerate kids.
After presents, it was time for cake. Steve was kind enough not only to give Jack the first piece, right out of the middle, of Captain Jack Sparrow's face, but also to let me take him into the next room so we could eat cake together. I had been so busy with the other kids and parents that I had not had much time to hang with my Cub.
Once everyone had their cake, we had a bit more time for playing. Steve and I both had a list of additional games and activities we could go to if we were at loose ends, but we ended up not needing it. Steve and half of the kids played with Jack's new toys. The other half joined me for more Musical Pillows, which was a big hit. I enhanced the game by telling the kids to not just walk in a circle around the pillows, but to pretend to be cats, goldfish, penguins, pirates, princesses, ballerinas, and so on.
After the last kid had gone home, the boys and I were worn out. We changed into jammies, played with Jack's toys, and watched a movie before an early bedtime.
I have to admit, the party was a lot of fun for all three of us... but I am also looking forward to a quieter party on his actual birthday.