Back in ancient times, party favours had yet to be invented. In those days, a child would attend another child’s birthday party, without a parent in tow as chaperon. The child was at the mercy of the birthday child’s parents. On conclusion of the party, if you were exceptionally lucky, you would be given a piece of mangled birthday cake wrapped up in a paper napkin to take home.
At some time between then and now, party favours were invented. These favours are purchased by the parent and given to;
A] every child in your child’s class
B] every child that attends the party
The parent can make life difficult for themselves by ensuring that the favours match the sex of the recipient. [translation = or ensure that the favours are unisex] N.B. don’t forget to also buy the very expensive little bags, also sexless, that come in packs of 6 or 8 or some other inconvenient number. Good, [translation = creative] parents also decorate the bags. N.B remember to purchase sufficient yardage of ribbon for approximately 40 bags.
The contents of the bags should ideally be the same in order to keep the peace. [translation = same may be boring for the recipient but it is better than different which provokes meltdowns] Technically, your child, the birthday child, should not receive a party favour bag because etiquette dictates that this is a gift for the invitee. [translation = ignore this rule as etiquette isn’t all it’s cracked up to be]
So far so good. Now you are poor, but still have all the big things to do.
It is tempting to skip the whole party favour bag nightmare completely, but that temptation should be resisted. This activity, of assembling the bags should be completed at the dead of night. [translation = whilst you are alone with no small people present to tax your efficiency and sequencing]
So what have we established so far? That Party favour bags, together with their contents should be banished from the earth. [translation – forthwith] What possible justification could one have for such rashness? Oodles of justification since you ask. The modern child is already over toyed! Remember to breathe! Or is that just me? so there we have it ladies and gentlemen, consensus. On a scale of one to ten, how annoying are party bags? Exactly! I was going to say 17 and a half too.
Now we have established the status quo, it is time for a rethink.
Firstly, etiquette, as etiquette is paramount around here. [translation = anyone in need of an additional spit bowl?] American’s by their very nature, are overly generous. Guests always bring large and extravagant gifts, so the very least one can do is acknowledge their kindness in attending. [translation = danger money] What else?
The distribution of the bags is the ideal opportunity to put all those painfully acquired social skills into practice, the give, the take, the words, now that he is 8. [translation = climb on your friend, without using any words, give him a bear hug to crush his little rib cage and kiss the nearest part of his anatomy that you happen to come in contact with] Great!
But there are also more subtle skills, depending upon your children’s current disposition. Maybe paper is aversive. [translation = tactile defensiveness] Maybe the fine motor skills are challenged? If you are making your own party favour bags, you can simply cut circles of non-scratchy cloth, wrap the contents inside and close with a loose elastic band. [translation = unless you are on the ‘quatrefoils or bust’ stage of development]
If you choose the contents carefully, you can produce a mini emergency therapy kit for the child, which has the added benefit of thanking the parent too. [gum, sunglasses, koosh, parachute guy, puzzles, kaleidoscope, whistle, gazoo…..all such ordinary little familiar things that can lead to therapeutic learning and play, extra special joy …….or a hideous meltdown]
Lastly, it took Temple Grandin’s book, “Thinking in Pictures," to help me understand the role of novelty in the human psyche. I still don’t really understand the joy of the novel, but I know that it exists. If ‘novelty’ can induce ‘play’ then it certainly gets my vote.
Post script - anyone have advice for those experiencing marital "disharmony?"
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
In the early 1980’s I was a young divorced mother of one. Mum’s would chat and drink coffee, whilst small children played. We would speculate about our children’s future. That one would follow in the family tradition and be a lawyer, that one a doctor, this one and that one, and on they would go. When it came to my turn, I would always said the same thing, “as long as she’s happy, healthy and normal, I really couldn’t give a fig.” They would giggle and tease, ‘surely I must have some higher ambition for my child?’
As far as I was concerned, with all the ‘new’ dangers that young people were experiencing at that time, it seemed a very lofty ambition.
These days, with all the ‘new’ dangers that young people are experiencing today, such an ambition seems to be the pinnacle of achievement, although I’ve altered the motto to ‘healthy and happy.’ The healthy, I can manage as best I may, subject to the vagueries of the plague and other epidemics. The 'happy,' is a bit tougher.
It seems strange to me, that as a prime example of cynicism, pessimism and general doom, that the happiness of my children should be so important. [translation = grumpy, old, misery guts]
Americans are entitled to ‘the pursuit of happiness,’ which is all well and good, but the constitution is silent as to how you nail it down, assuming that during your pursuit, you manage to find it in the first place.
I can help my children acquire skills that foster a sense of achievement, self esteem and self worth. [translation = asking the rhetorical ‘why can’t you just be happy?’ doesn’t really cut it, autistic or otherwise] I am aware of the high incidence of suicide in the autistic community, and I can guess at some of the sources of their despair. I can visualize my boys as adults. They can dress themselves, catch a bus, make a sandwich, hold a conversation with words, and hopefully a lot more than that, but are they happy?
What makes them happy now, may not make them happy when they’re older. [translation = growth and maturity] I am doubtful that a parent can change a child’s innate personality, even if I wanted to. The raw materials are there to guide and mould, but all the therapy, teaching and acquisition of skills in the world, is not going to ‘create’ a happy person.
If you’ve come here for answers, then I’m afraid that you’ve come to the wrong place, [again] as I only have questions. Is it a legitimate goal in the first place? If it is, how do you choose the right path to reach the goal? Do you want this too, or are other things more important? Give me your best guess.
I would add, that earlier today whilst I was reading "blogs" with a small person by my side, we came across a picture on this "blog". It caused great consternation as we are about to board a boeing 747. Fortunately, once I explained that a "jet plane" is not the same as a 747, the logic saved the day.