Happy birthday, Josh!
My son Josh turned 8 on May 17. A few weeks before, I was gulping my Starbucks red eye and moseying through a party store when I realized all the Spider Man-themed stuff would cost the same as a year at Harvard.
I figured there had to be a cheaper, better way. Then my eyes lit on a charming, brightly hued Chinese takeout box, and I was hooked. Our theme would be China! It would be a learning experience and fun!
So we went to Chinatown in Chicago, and I bought candy and tiny toys for treat bags. I printed out the Chinese characters for “harmony,” “friendship,” and “happiness” for a game. I got fortune cookies.
“Wow,” a family member said. “You’re pretty brave to simplify one of the world’s oldest cultures, a country with one-sixth of the world’s population, into a two-hour children’s birthday party. And I’m really surprised you want to celebrate a country with such a horrific record of human rights abuses.”
I hadn’t thought of it that way. I mean, the United States is relatively competitive when it comes to human rights abuses. Take slavery–no, I mean, really. Take it.
The kids at our party seemed to have fun, and fortunately, none of them commented about the geopolitical ramifications of indoctrinating future leaders regarding the communist-capitalistic successes of a rival that doesn’t share our laissez-faire values.
I was optimistic I’d kept my children out of therapy until they’re 50 until my son Jake, who is 9, announced, “I want to have a Greek mythology party.”
“That sounds great!” I exclaimed, wanting to affirm his budding self-actualization. I figured I’d get a bunch of white robes for togas, serve grapes, that kind of thing. Besides, the ancient Greeks are presumably deceased, and I wouldn’t need to worry about offending Spartans.
“We can have Dad dress up like a Minotaur,” Jake enthused. “He can wear a bull’s head and padding. We can put up five-foot-tall cardboard walls to make a maze and give the kids broom handles. Then they can find Dad and fight him, you know, hit him with the broom handles.”
“I don’t know, Jake,” I said. “I’m not sure your dad will like that idea. What about that nice pool party we had last year at the country club? Wouldn’t you like to do that again?”
He wrinkled his nose. “No. Hey, I really enjoyed watching Sherlock Holmes last night. Let’s have a party based on the Victorian Era.”
I laughed, but weakly and not long. “I think SpongeBob’s pet snail Gary is so cute when he meows. Maybe the party store has SpongeBob stuff.”