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BUSY IN BRISTOW: ‘Party Circuit Part II’, Tweens, Cliques

| March 23, 2014 | 0 Comments | Busy in Bristow

In this second installment, of “The Party Circuit” (see last week’s column), I’ll take a look at that mysterious person we’ve dubbed “tween” and the ways birthday parties change for this age group.

5th grade – 7th grade:

Okay, this is the age of all-girl/all-boy get-togethers, sleepovers and Ride-the-Bus-Home on Friday afternoon parties. A note on that last one … even thought the school, in all of its self-esteem awareness and anti-bullying propaganda has wisely determined that being the mail service for party invitations is a no-no unless EVERYONE is invited, there is no rule anywhere about who, or how many, ride the school bus home with your child.

On more than one occasion, one of my kids has gotten his/her feelings hurt because some “friend” on their bus is either: a) having a boatload of classmates come over to work on a group project … and they all have overnight bags full of … poster board and markers? Or b) having a birthday party to which my child was not invited. Ouch.

If you let it, this can cause bad feelings between the adults, or at least the mothers since fathers don’t usually let themselves get dragged into these things. I think though, that since most of us actually grew up and don’t think we’re still in high school, we realize that our children have the right to choose their own friends and fickle or unfair as they may sometimes be, they usually have valid reasons for preferring the company of this boy over this one. Also, today we may be on the receiving end of a perceived slight, but tomorrow, we’re unknowingly on the giving end. Lastly, having perspective, we know that even though this is the age when cliques begin, that the edges of these groups often morph over time to expel and invite members. At least I’ve given my kids the, “If you really want to be friends with so-and-so,” speech, “the first thing you need to do is BE a friend to her.” As hard as these moments can be for families, they offer opportunities to talk to – and I remind myself – listen to your kids – regarding their social insecurities and yearnings.

Or in the case of boys, their denial of emotions until the tears well up and can’t be contained.

On the plus side, this age child is a hoot to be around … if they let you. They enjoy many of the same things you do, meaning you might find yourself willingly sitting down to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark (again), they’re active so they just might include you in a game of hoops or a scooter race, and they’re funny, so you can almost be your adult self, and your son’s friends will think you’re funny even if you are THE most embarrassing person in the world to your son. (When this happens, that, is, of course, when you excuse yourself and find your own friends next door in the garage or go trolling on Facebook.)

These kids also appreciate being selective about their guest list – which in the aforementioned bus incident can hurt feelings but can also keep money in your pocket when you take a handful of them to the movies, to play laser tag or to the local athletic center. Spending time in smaller groups also helps your child develop friendships with depth and sincerity. No longer are children accepting invitations en masse to parties that parents need to budget for; no longer are they “Speed Partying” trying out friendships for minutes at a time. Now they are spending hours with one another, and in many cases learning how to entertain themselves and each other without the benefit of brightly lit commercial spaces and parents with dog and pony shows. In other words, they’re independence trumps our possessiveness. They may not want us around much of the time, but they still want to know we’re within arm’s reach. The party itself may lose some of its definition, becoming instead a “special day to have more than one friend over.” I think this is a good thing because it’s more like real life. The last party I went to (for adults and families) that hit the 100 person mark felt so impersonal I was kind of sorry I’d come. Even the more modest parties at which a mere 25 show (minus children and pets who end up downstairs or in the backyard) leave me yearning for the company of a quarter of the people there.

(Literary allusion spoiler alert): Clearly, I don’t agree with Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby, who leaning over to Nick, tells him how much she likes big parties, “because they’re so intimate.”

For most of us, eventually, our birthdays become “just another day.” If you’re not a teacher and born in early August like I am, you have to work on your birthday as an adult. It’s not like anyone is going to throw you a party every single year (nor, dare I say, would you want them to) although on the dreaded ones (30, 40, 50, etc.), a spouse, partner, or good friend might contact your other friends and throw an all-out bash. At this point, you’re right back where you began, aren’t you?

When you’re in your 30’s, you still have a lot of post-college friends who are scattered about and some of the new friends you’ve made are much older than you and are at different stages of their lives. It can feel an awful lot like the parallel play of preschool parties.

The Singles and the DINKS (Dual Income, No Kids) go to the family room where there may still be a dart board or a pool table and where they have easy access to the drinks. The Marrieds-With-Young-Children divvy up their time between taking their kids to the bathroom every five minutes and helping pudgy fingered little ones tie shoes and clean up cupcake icing, which means they’re not really socializing much at all – sort of like the 2nd-4th graders who all congregate in one space bouncing around from friend to friend.

And then there are the Parents With Older Children mixed in with the Almost Retired Whose Children – if they had any – Are Away at College or Living on Their Own. These are usually the hosts of the party because they have the time to clean their houses, and if they’ve gone “big” then you may attend their party without ever seeing them for more than five minutes, or if they’ve gone “intimate,” you may find family members of all ages sprawled around the kitchen, because let’s face it, that’s where people tend to congregate at parties – reminiscing about their own childhoods and wondering how the heck they got to be so old.

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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