My daughter turned seven in December, and of course, she wanted a party. She didn’t want too many people; she’s a fairly quiet, shy girl of the fairy princess variety and the thought of inviting the whole class was as overwhelming to her as to us. So a tea party seemed just the thing. We called a local tea house famed for offering its guests tiaras and discovered our imaginations stretched further than our budget. My requirement that the whole house be clean before we host a party at home was met with a declaration to call the whole thing off. Then we thought of the dojo. My husband teaches at a martial arts school mere blocks from the tea house; the birthday girl was taking her yellow belt test days before the party, and The Princess in Black is her favorite book. Thus was born the Princess in Black Martial Arts Tea Party.
We invited about a dozen (mostly) girls. Pots of chamomile tea and instant cocoa were joined by crustless PB&J, Pepperidge Farm cookies, and cheese sticks (for protein). We bought a monster-shaped piñata and made goodie bags with black masks, ring pops, and rose quartz stones (read the book). We decorated with pink balloons and foam swords.
In the event, only one boy showed up for the party, so if what followed in any way resembles Lord of the Flies, just remember to populate your mental image with little girls in princess costumes. (A few girls familiar with the story wore black, but most opted for Disney-brand ball gowns.)
So now that I’ve given you a bit of foreshadowing, here is what happens when you put little girls in a wide open room with snacks and toy weapons and don’t tell them how to play.
- Craft supplies and crayons will remain untouched on the tables.
- Balloons will be pulled from the walls and whacked with swords until they pop.
- The homemade monster masks adorning the heavy punching bag will be ripped to shreds by a swarm of tiny warriors.
- Errol Flynn-style sword fights will break out, in which it will be obvious which first graders have older siblings who study fencing.
- The boy will end up in the bottom of a pig pile. He will be a good sport about it when dug out.
- The birthday girl will be found in the dressing room with her hands over her ears, overwhelmed by the volume of shrieks. The birthday mom will enjoy the quiet of the back room with her before rallying to call a snack break truce.
- Snack breaks will prove insufficient distraction from the violence. Cake (which, coming from Larsen’s Danish Bakery, was incredibly tasty and had grownups asking for more) will be abandoned half eaten and drinks left unfinished on the table as kids rush back to battle.
- When the adults begin to start worrying about someone losing an eye, birthday dad will lead a martial arts game, “Don’t Let Dad Whack You with a Stick.” Everyone watches quietly and intently as each child takes a turn.
- After all that swordfighting practice, the piñata doesn’t last very long.
- A good time will be had by all.
I know a lot of people who swear by “nature.” I’m even a little guilty of it myself, since I certainly never nurtured this:
I didn’t plan on turning my daughters’ birthday party into a sociological experiment. I just put together the props appropriate to the themes of a favorite book, and let kids be themselves. Turns out they are beautiful little savages.