On the weekend I conducted an accidental social experiment. It was at my daughters 2nd birthday party and the feedback I received from the experiment has been mixed.
High heels and high chairs
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Some thought I was brave, others thought I was crazy. And I think, although none have said it to my face, that I, or my actions, were a little mean. You see I decided, after a long night of birthday preparations, baking cakes, putting up decorations, packing lolly bags and stuffing piñata’s that when it came to the pass the parcel I wouldn’t put a small prize in every layer of wrapping. I know, outrageous, I get that now.
My decision was two-fold. One was driven by the fact that I just plain forgot to get enough crap to pack in the parcel. After the lolly buffet and the Piñata I was just plain outta candy. Plus I wasn’t driving to the shops at sparrows fart to buy some plastic fantastic trinkets the kids would love for 5 seconds and then lose in the crevice of the car seat on the way home. The other reason was inspired by a conversation I’d watched on the television about how modern parents are fostering an entitlement culture and not teaching children to lose graciously, all on the because of the PC way we must run a game of pass the parcel. Back in the early 1980s when I was a kid, the unfurling of each layer acted as a nail-biting countdown to a single, ultimate treasure. Only one child would reign triumphant. It was a harsh but ultimately more realistic time, there were no prizes for coming second. Ok, so it was more driven by the prizes I had neglected to buy, and the third red wine I’d consumed, but still I thought ‘this would be interesting’ let’s do it!
Here’s what happened.
I wrapped up a nice big gift, sticker books, some magic pens and a little guitar. The parcel was pretty big, the kid’s eyes bugged out of their heads in awesome anticipation as I gathered them all in a circle to start the music. Once they were all seated I explained that this pass the parcel was a bit old fashioned. It was going to be like when Mummy and Daddy played the game when they were kids. Our pass the parcels only had ONE PRIZE in it at the end. After the looks of amazement at our unfortunate upbringing had subsided an interesting thing happened.
My perfect circle turned into a semi circle as some of the older kids decided the odds were too large for loss so why bother. They jumped back into the pool or headed to the lolly buffet where they were guaranteed a pay off. Fair enough.
Still I continued as bewildered children unwrapped and unwrapped and unwrapped while still, in some kind of hope, searched the wrapping for something magical to turn up, thinking perhaps that I had been joking and Christmas hadn’t been canceled. It didn’t until the end of course where one lovely little boy who had patiently waited and watched and got more and more excited as the parcel size decreased. Just like we did when we were little. Can you remember that feeling? The thrilling anticipation of ‘could it be me’ as the parcel layers peeled away like an onion. He jumped up with glee when he won and so did the rest of the party, not because he won, but because the torture of waiting was over.
Then the next interesting thing happened. There was no riot, no picketing of unfairness at my party, the kids didn’t care. They really didn’t. The game was over; someone won, they checked out his prize booty, and then got on with things. Like whacking the living daylights out of the Piñata. Sure, they probably imagined they were smashing my head with that stick after my politically incorrect party trick but in the end as the shower of lolly’s erupted from the guts of pink poodle piñata all was forgiven and forgotten. I think.