Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Birthday parties for kids are terrible events. They're devoid of creativity and filled with expense. (They're also filled with kids, which is obviously annoying, but there's not much you can do about that).

Sometimes parents get it right though. Last weekend I attended one such party.

We all gathered at the birthday girl's house, with the kids running around doing whatever the hell it is that 9 year-old girls do. I assume it involved imagining themselves marrying unicorns. Suddenly there was a horrible screeching outside. I thought it sounded like some late-arriving guest had suffered a particularly painful dismemberment. Daisy thought that cats were fighting.

The source of the noise banged up the front steps and pounded on the door.

The hostess opened the front door and a young woman rushed in, tripping over herself trying to explain that she had just been robbed. She excitedly told us all how she had been carrying her grandmother's jewels when she was robbed, but in a bizarre twist, the robber gave her an envelope before running off. The woman paused at this point, introduced herself as a tourist from Australia, and apologized for barging in. She asked for our help.

The party had begun.

Inside the envelope, which "the tourist" handed to the birthday girl, was the first clue in a treasure hunt that ultimately led the kids through the charming West Portal neighborhood of San Francisco, looking for more clues in various stores, nooks, and buildings. The clues had been written the week before by the birthday girl's mom, and were being hidden just in time at each one of the clue locations by the girl's older brother, who stayed a block ahead of the party-goers at all times. I traipsed behind the pack of girls, along with the other parents, watching the kids race around finding and decoding the clues.

Daisy had a great time, and at the end of the party I chastised the birthday girl's mother for setting the bar so goddamn high. Thanks for spoiling my child for bowling parties, lady.

When Daisy and I drove home after the party, she asked me if all that stuff with the tourist was what was supposed to happen.

Me: What do you think?
Daisy: I don't know.
Me: Well, you knew that the party was going to be some sort of scavenger or treasure hunt, right?
Daisy: Yeah
Me: So, I guess there are two possibilities here. Either they planned that whole thing with the Australian tourist, or instead they had planned some completely different scavenger/treasure hunt and then it got interrupted by the Australian tourist activity, which just happened to also turn into a treasure hunt. Right?
Daisy: Yeah.
Me: And you're not sure which of those choices it is?
Daisy: Right.

So, I taught my daughter about Occam's Razor.


Sue said...

And you say you can't educate your daughter! You just taught her something so valuable that she would've been unlikely to learn in 12 years of schooling (at least I didn't).

Lola said...

It's the unicorns. The 9 year old mind can still retain a hint of optimism that there might really be live unicorns, and that people can fly, but the grown ups are keeping it secret until you get to be 21. So it doesn't surprise me that there's a smidgeon of doubt about what happened at the party.

I hoped for unicorns right into my teens. A bit of me still hopes. Sigh.

Mike said...

Sue, and if Daisy gets accepted to Occam's Razor University, where the only entrance requirement is knowing Occam's Razor, then I'll be all set!

Lola, so do I smash the optimism out of her, or let the rest of the world do it?

Lola said...

Leave the optimism-smashing to the rest of the world, that way you'll always be available to sympathise.

tinyhands said...

My optimism-smashing services are always at your ready and come with a 6-month warranty. How do I do it, you ask? I'll give you a hint: It involves my 401k.

carey said...

Where I'm from, putting frosting on the cake, running around in the sprinkler and goodie bags with a bunch of crap from the dollar store is considered elaborate. So bowling ain't too shabby. I'm glad Daisy had fun and you taught her good hygiene.

Mike said...

Lola, that sounds good in theory, but in practice sympathizing is not one of my core competencies.

Tiny, maybe we should go on tour together, performing a tag-team show of demotivation. You in?

Carey, yeah, birthday parties around here are a little out of control. It could be worse, but it sure as hell cold be a lot better.

Neel Mehta said...

if Daisy gets accepted to Occam's Razor University, where the only entrance requirement is knowing Occam's Razor, then I'll be all set!

There is an ORU, but it stands for something very different.

Mike said...

Ah, Oral Roberts University, one of the few schools that has an oxymoron for a name.