My nephew's fifth birthday party was this past weekend, and from it I learned several lessons about making kids' birthday parties something better than soul-killing boredom, a.k.a. awesome. The first lesson was, switch it up. In this case, my brother and sister-in-law set the birthday at High Park and created an event around it -- what all the parents at first thought was just a nature hike.
My boy's on the left in the above picture, which gives me a funny feeling when I look at it. It's just him and his cousin and another friend, the three of them way out ahead of the rest of us, leading the way. This picture reflects the way he and his friends are becoming people removed from their parents, people themselves, which is so different from the way things used to be. My boy and his buds, just hanging out.
This is the moment the nature hike became something else. Wait! What's that in the distance? That thing, that black blur. You see it?
Is that...? Could it possibly be?
A BEAR! And what made this all the more awesome was that most of the parents at the party didn't know this was going to happen either. It was a surprise for everyone, and for a few moments there was an uncertainty to the party, like, hmmm, is that really a bear, and should we be getting out our cellphones and dialling 911?
Now my boy and my daughter both were clutching my hand and the dozen other kids along this party also were getting close to their parents. Should we go around? Should we go and see the bear? My kids weren't sure.
That's my sister next to the bear. Hugging him. Strangely, at this moment, my sister's husband Isaac was nowhere to be found. My kids didn't notice, however. They were too entranced by the bear. My son wanted to feel his teeth. "Why is his mouth staying open all the time?" he kept asking. I said, "It's because he has a cold."
"Yeah, of course," I said. "What else would a bear wear on his feet?"
That kind of stumped him. Shortly after the bear had to leave. I guess he had an appointment or something. We gathered around a nearby picnic table for hot chocolate and cake and discussed how today was the first time any of us had ever seen a bear, a real-live bear. Best. Party. Ever. (Other lessons for birthday-party-hosting: Include a surprise. Don't let the parents in on the surprise, because then they'll be delighted, too. And always, at every party, include a bear.)