When I wrote about my ambivert daughter’s extended birthday celebration, I was perhaps a little too confident in my Papa and party-organizer expertise. Fortunately, my daughter and her friends were happy to restore order to the universe by making sure I didn’t get too comfortable.
Kavya’s parties have always been heavy on the extroverted side, with the introvert activities being mostly accidental (like kids coloring on the tablecloths while Papa frantically completed cake arrangements). This year, I was convinced it would be different. Kavya knew what themes she wanted long before her party, so rather than having to almost improvise last minute as I typically would, I had several months to prepare. And unlike in previous years, Kavya was fine inviting just six of her girlfriends.
Spoiler alert: the party did not go as planned. There was no revelation about how best to host an extrovert-proof party. Make no mistake: this is a post about never trusting six-year-olds, introvert, extrovert, ambivert, mineral, or vegetable.
Kavya’s actual birthday is in February when it always snows, but she really wanted a summer party and was down to postpone her shindig. She didn’t mention anything for months, but the last week of kindergarten in June, assuming I’d gotten everything planned, she started to begin conversations with, “So, at my party. . . .”
My little ambivert wanted her party to start with teacup painting, to continue with sword-fighting at our local park, and to end with a black light party at our apartment while quietly watching Star Wars Episode V—“the one with the ice,” as she calls it. My Papa-chaos barometer scheduled the mayhem (required during all parties with littles) to erupt precisely during the sword fighting segment, out in the open grass, relatively far away from my ears.
Everything was perfectly planned (or so I thought!): a nice combination of quiet and boisterous activities, with some wind-down time thrown in. It would’ve been nice for the party to start off according to plan so I’d have a better chance to return to it in case things went awry later. But immediately, boisterousness intervened. Because we live in Jersey City, the usually quick walk to our local park this time involved finding a random grand piano abandoned on the street. Twenty minutes of banging on keys later, we finally started moving towards the park again, me carrying a massive picnic basket and a blanket on my head while the ladies of leisure frolicked about in their summer fineries.
We had commandeered a gazebo and started with what I thought would be a lovely, quiet teacup painting, just as we saw on the dignified and passive-aggressive Princess Sofia show my daughter loves. Almost immediately, it turned into a loud, violent activity, involving what looked like warpaint and seven little kids running around like maniacs. It didn’t help that with all my strategic planning, mostly centering on installing massive black lights in the house, I neglected to notice that the teacup painting sets I’d bought for the party had only two paintbrushes. A Lord of the Flies-esque panic ensued. Kavya, however, was totally unbothered and sat painting with one of the two brushes—birthday girl privileges—amidst other girls running wild with hands covered in paint, ignoring my meek warnings of “watch your clothes, you’ll get paint on them.”
One of the dads—who thankfully agreed to stay and endure rather than gleefully drop off his kid and flee—happened to have a set of paintbrushes in his car (as one does). He went to get them and came back a few minutes later with the gear. During his short walk, the kids, of course, went from Hunger Games-like fights over available resources to tame finger painting. They were quiet for about a minute, until I poured warmish water into small teacups with tea leaves Kavya had picked out from a tea shop in Manhattan a few days before. After that idyllic minute, everything went back to berserk as they hurled accusations of some getting more tea than others and of theft of paints and teacups.
Then one of the kids found the carefully hidden foam swords in a grocery bag, took them out and yelled, “SWORDS!” At this point, I shrugged my shoulders and gave up. Everyone swarmed to get the swords. Kavya took breaks from the chaos by going to a corner, where she did her two fencing moves—the advance and retreat—while most of her friends competed in knocking each other’s heads off (fortunately, nobody won that contest, or I’d have some explaining to do). Me and my Papa-chaos barometer decided that a very long walk back to the house would get the crazy out of the kids. But as soon as they saw the “Welcome to the Dark Side” poster I drew on paper outside our door, they dipped into hidden energy reserves and raced, screaming, into our 700-square-foot apartment.
I breathed a sigh of relief when six of the seven kids settled onto the sofa after being entertained by the glow of tonic water and teeth and eyes and hair and white t-shirts under newly-installed black lights. The birthday girl put on a pirate hat and sword, declaring herself Kavya Longstocking Princess Leia.
They were all excited about watching Star Wars, which was on the invitations we’d sent out. But the universe had other plans. One of the kids announced she wasn’t allowed to watch Star Wars because it was violent. Neither me or Kavya understood this because we watch a lot of old Bollywood and Lollywood films, where the more chest hair the villain and hero have, the more unrealistic blood—squirting out of hidden ketchup bottles—one can expect.
Thankfully, Kavya, being Kavya, was totally fine with not watching Star Wars, despite it being part of the theme of her party. But I started panicking at the notion of figuring out an acceptable non-violent kid-friendly movie all seven of these kids would watch. Saving me from my agony, Kavya and her world-savvy friends smartly suggested we just get a Disney movie on iTunes. I thought perhaps now was not the time to debate the monetary value of the word “get.” Twenty dollars later, I was finally sitting down, not worrying about the kids, who were completely absorbed by the movie and ignoring us adults. My next move, obviously, was to make much-needed basil-lemonade margaritas.
I’d like to think I’m the sort of Papa who can plan and execute a flawless, stress-free kid party for my ambivert daughter, who loves both extrovert and introvert types of fun. But the truth is that no matter how much military-style planning I do, as an introvert, I will stress out. It’s inevitable. And if I’m going to stress out anyway, I might as well enjoy the ride—at least I know my daughter will!