Like most boys his age, Big Brother loves super-heroes. He’s not too fussy about which ones, although Spiderman and Batman are probably his favourites. So his answer shouldn’t have come as a shock to me when, a few months ago, I asked the fateful question: “Shall we have a birthday party for you this year?”
“A super-hero party!” Big Brother said, with the type of enthusiasm usually reserved for… well, super-hero parties, I suppose.
“Sure,” I said, in that Mummy-tone way that actually means: “I’m not sure, actually. But it’s a few months away. And maybe you’ll change your mind between now and then.”
But he didn’t. So, two weeks before his birthday, I had to actually admit to myself that it was going to happen. We were going to have a super-hero party for him and his school friends.
The trouble is, I suck at children’s parties. I’m no good at running party games (as I discovered a year ago, when Big Brother turned five). And the idea of a group of five and six-year-old boys running pell-mell around the house without direction or parental control fills me with the kind of dread usually reserved for… well, children’s parties.
But do you what I don’t suck at?
So the challenge was: How do I turn Big Brother’s 6th birthday from a super-hero party into a super-hero story?
As it turns out, it was easier than it sounds.
We had the birthday party in a local park on a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago. (Several hours after Big Brother woke me up by excitedly yelling, “Mummy! It’s my birthday! And I’m six years old!!) Four of Big Brother’s school friends were there, along with their parents and three little sisters.
“Do you like super-heroes?” I asked the children. “And would you like to be a super-hero?”
With two resounding answers of Yes!, we started the day’s activities.
All the children sat down, and I gave them each a plain white t-shirt and some fabric markers to design their own super-hero costume. When that was done, they moved to the next table to colour in their own super-hero mask.
The children loved it. So did the parents — some of whom spent more time designing the costumes than their children did. (If I did this again, I’d definitely have adult-sized shirts on hand as well!)
We had a Neo-Flash, a Neo-Batman, a Neo-Superman, Z-Man, and the Golden Arm of Justice. (Also a couple of Princesses and Fairy Queens.) When the children were dressed in their costumes, they super-heroed around for a while until everyone was done. And then we moved on to the next part of the party.
“Do you like stories?” I asked.
Another resounding Yes!
So I gathered the children together, and we sat down in a circle on the grass for a story.
“This is the story of Rocky the Rabbit,” I began. “Rocky the Rabbit was a very special rabbit. He wasn’t a flesh and blood rabbit living in a field. No, he was something much better. He was a money-box rabbit living in a playroom. And at night, when all the children had gone to bed and the toys came out to have their own adventures, Rocky the Rabbit dreamed of being a super-hero.”
And then I told them the story of Rocky the Rabbit — a story I wrote for the occasion.
Rocky the Rabbit wanted to be a super-hero, but he didn’t have any super-powers. But during the course of the story, he rushed to try to help everyone who needed him. And at the end of the story the toys all gathered together to throw a party of Rocky.
“But I’m not a super-hero,” Rocky said. “I’m not super-fast, and I’m not super-strong, and I can’t even fly.”
“You may not be super-fast,” said the toys. “And you may not be super-strong. And you certainly can’t fly. But when you heard someone calling for help, you hop-hop-hopped over as fast as you could, and you found a way to help them. And that’s what makes a real super-hero.”
And then the toys presented Rocky the Rabbit with his very own shiny cape. And from then on, every night after the children had gone to sleep, Rocky the Rabbit would put on his cape and hop-hop-hop around the playroom, looking for people to help. Because he really was a super-hero.
The children loved it.
And when the story was done, I presented each of the children with their very own shiny cape. We attached them to the back of the super-hero shirts, and off they flew to do super-heroic things.
Soon after, we gathered the children together so Big Brother could open his presents. And then we had cake.
For some reason, I decided on the spur of the moment that cupcakes would be a better idea than a large cake.
Do you have any idea how long it takes to decorate 30 cupcakes?
A long time.
But the children loved them, and that’s the important part. In fact, the hard part was getting the children to leave them alone until after the candles had been blown out and the birthday song sung. Then they attacked the cupcakes with gusto, everyone grabbing the symbol of their favourite super-hero.
So I count the decorating as time well spent.
After cake had been consumed, it was almost time to wrap up the
story party. So I called all the children over and told them we had a little present for each of them to say thank you for coming to Big Brother’s birthday.
Once the children had all lined up, excited faces and hands outstretched, I tried to open the box of goodies.
But it wouldn’t budge.
“Oh no,” I said. “It seems to be stuck.”
I tried again to no avail. “Wait. There’s a letter here.”
The children watched with wide eyes as I read it out.
Ha ha ha. I have locked your presents away in this box and sealed them in there with my magic power ring. I’ve hidden all the other magic power rings in the world, so now you will never get your presents. Ha ha ha.
“Oh no!” I cried. “What will we do?!”
The littlest super-heroes got it straight away. “We have to find the magic power rings!”
And off they went, running as though their
presents lives depended on it. They searched high and low, around trees and benches and fences. And before long, they all had at least one magic power ring to their name. (Some had as many as six. Trust me, you can’t have too many magic power rings.)
When the children were all back, I got them to all line up. “Maybe if we all point out magic power rings at the box and say the magic words really, really loudly… Does anyone know any magic words?”
“Please!” (Bless. Not my child, but he had the best magic word of them all.)
We worked out a combination of magic words, and then all the children pointed their rings at the box and yelled and —
The box opened.
And I gave everyone their party favour: a real Rocky the Rabbit money-box.
Complete with cape.
The children flew their Rocky the Rabbits around for a while, and then it was time for everyone to go home.
It was a great morning, and everyone enjoyed themselves.
As everyone was leaving, one of the parents said to me, “This was great. I can’t wait to see what you do next year!”
Right. Next year.
You mean children have more than one birthday?!
What have I gotten myself into…
Have you had any particularly good (or bad) children’s birthday party experiences?