Today I took my grandson to a birthday petty in a local church hall. His Mummy and Daddy were in work so it was my job to take him. It was his friends sixth birthday and the whole class had been invited.
The party was hosted by a company called 'Full of Beans'. The invitation said comfortable clothing and so armed with Grandson dressed in jogging bottoms and trainers and gift off we went.
The party was held in a church hall less than a mile away but although having lived in the area for over 20 years it was my first visit. I was impressed. It was a light and airy hall with a fully equipped kitchen and a dining hall. Absolutely ideal for accommodating the anticipated 30+ children and accompanying adults.
On arrival the children were ushered into the hall and the adults were given the option of staying or leaving. I chose to stay but had decided that if my grandson was 'stilted' by my being there I would leave. As it happened he wasn't bothered one way or the other so I stayed. He is a confident boy with children and adults he knows but very shy with all other adults so the fact that he was happy to stay and really actively following all the instructions of the young man hosting the party left me the opportunity to be an observer of the whole process.
My first observation was that some of the adults should have left, as it appeared to the seasoned eye that some of the children clung to their Mums and did not join in while some played up. Quite confident it appeared that they would
be able to get away with a lot more than usual as their Mum would not shout in front of all of the other Mums. It really is very interesting to observe the very complex child/parent relationship. It's like a chess game where one plays the other. Having said that perhaps about 75% of the children just get on and join in.
Another observation which was quite striking was the huge difference between the boys and girls. The girls were on the whole following the instructions to the letter while the boys were being giddy and dipping in and out. The girls were actually often reminding the boys of what they should be doing.
My final observation was behaviour on the whole. Watching the two leaders try to organise the children and get them to follow instructions was hard work. It honestly took all of my inner strength not to employ my teacher voice and look in order to gain control.
I think the bedlam was due several factors:
Parents being present - now if you've ever been on a class trip and taken parents you will be well aware how a normally well behaved child will suddenly push their luck.
Giddy children - having recently hosted a class party at Christmas, were 34 relatively noisy children became an over excited explosion of noise I could empathise.
Inexperienced organisers - the people running the party were lovely, very good and very patient with the children. However the structure of several of the activities was not condusive to calm. They also made the classic mistake of shouting over the noise and chaos when a simple signal introduced at the beginning would have resulted in a much less stressful time for them.
I could go on but would run the risk of sounding like I was putting them down when I am genuinely not. As I said before they were great. The activities and the whole idea behind the party was brilliant. Anything that entertains 34 five and six year olds for 2 hours is not to be undermined.
My grandson had a ball. As for me like I said a busmans holiday but I have to admit enjoyable.