This one will be easy today because it’s mostly pictures (right… we’ll see if I can keep my mental trap shut).
The other night, Thing 3 had his 9th birthday party. He wanted to go play laser tag, and that’s what he told his friends he was doing, of course before asking me and Mr. Grass Oil. The thing is: we don’t do big rent-a-Hummer limo and throw a bunch of kids into a dark room before they’re 10. In fact, we don’t do the limo at all.
When his brother had his 10th birthday party, we went to laser tag. It was great. I loved siting in the party room waiting for the kids to come back all sweaty and watch them spill soda everywhere and knock over chairs and accidentally pull the tissue paper tablecloths off the tables taking the boxes of pizza with them. It was the time of my life. I distinctly remember hiding my new suede boots from the mayhem because it was in February and where I live, it used to be cold in February.
So this time, I made an executive decision: “You can invite either three or five friends to join us bowling. That is all. No dark rooms and aggression. Lots of light, smiles and heavy balls and pins.” He chose three (alleluia!) friends and we all fit in the Grass Oil mobile and lumbered off to the local Bowl America at dusk. I chose a small number of friends because I learned: the bigger the party, the less intimacy, the less sharing and the less interaction. My son doesn’t do well with crowds either and three friends is enough for him to keep track of.
We had a GREAT time. I always forget how awesome this place is: what was likely state-of-the art back in the late 70s when it first opened is now a respectable form of cultural antiquity. It gently nods to the long shadows of the 20th century with its linoleum tile floor, etched formica placards, round diner-style bar stools and olde-tyme nearly burnt-out cathode ray tube computer monitors. It doesn’t smell like cigarettes and it doesn’t smell like beer. It smells like bowling.
Bowling is just … so fun and simple: roll a ball down a lane, try to knock things over. How COOL is that?? It’s like reliving toddlerhood for adults too.
After the bowling, we came back to Grass Oil manor, played some hoops in the dark, immediately decided that was enough of that, came inside to play a little PS3 and then had pizza, ice cream cake and presents that we opened in front of our friends. I read a parenting book a while back, Parents in Charge, and it had a section about how children opening presents in front of their guests had been on a massive and disturbing decline. The author suggested that children need to open their gifts in front of their friends: the givers need to see the delight of the recipient; the other children need to learn / remember how to be gracious and happy for their friend who is being celebrated and the recipient needs to give in-person, real-time gratitude to the giver. My favorite part is when all the kids see the new gifts and talk about how cool they are or that they have one just like it and they love it.
I plan to go back to the lanes with Team Grass Oil at least every few months and each kiddo can bring a friend. Getting back to basics is the best thing we can do for ourselves.