Vn53.1 A Birthday Party 7/28/77
Robby’s birthday comes in August. Connecticut friends whom he
would like to have at a party can not come to Boston. When he suggested
an early party during our vacation, we agreed. Preparations for the
party focused on choosing activities and procuring treats and prizes.
If you have ‘prizes’ at a party, you must have one for everyone
and the question devolves to one of who gets first pick. The ‘activities’
became a means of deciding the order of selecting prizes. Robby
suggested a foot race and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. Miriam, younger
than all his friends and predictably last in a race, objected. She was
declared ‘judge’ and assured she would receive a prize for that office.
Robby took some cardboard (left over from manufacture of the go-cart of
Vignette 50) and drew thereupon a donkey. He made a selection of tails
to be affixed with tape (I balked at the idea of children pinning tails
on the timber walls of our house). When Robby decided the prizes should
be “matchbox racers” (at $1.20 apiece), it was clear he had proposed
enough games. The party was to conclude with an ice cream cake and a
selection of favors. (The items selected were the same as those
distributed at a party for Raymond’s brother — Hershey bars, bubble gum,
a balloon). The chosen hours were 2 to 4 pm. (These hours had been
the standard for parties attended by Miriam and Robby that year).
Six children were to be present. Miriam had to be there. Raymond
was his best friend. David and Vi were friends from a baby-sitting
playgroup he had been a member of. Who else should come? On the way
to Guilford, Robby said he might not have anyone to play with because
he couldn’t remember his schoolmates very well. On our first day in
Guilford, Robby encountered Michael on a walk and the 2 played that day.
After playing with John, a boy who lives across the street, he decided
playing with him was boring. Thus Michael was weakly preferred to John.
Robby called his friends and made the arrangements. David would arrive
late because of a conflict with his swimming class.
The day of the party I picked up Raymond by car and returned home
by 2:05. Robby and Miriam were awaiting guests at the end of the drive.
Raymond joined them while I put the car away and went inside. Before
the party, when he started wondering what presents he would get, I
asked Robby what was more important to him — that his friends come to
play or that he get presents. Robby said he really didn’t care about
the presents. Raymond came to the party without a present; he had
thought he was just coming over to play. I had told him not to worry
about it. He was Robby’s best friend and it was most important that
About 2:30 the 3 children entered the house. No other guests were
coming, a dreadful situation. Robby called Vi, who had forgotten about
the party and promised to come right over. No one answered the tele-
phone at Michael’s house. With Vi now definitely expected and David
known to be coming later, the 3 children occupied the interval by exam-
ining the prizes. They decided that half the 12 prizes (matchbox
racers) should be reclassified as favors and allocated them accordingly.
Robby asked me: “If Michael doesn’t come, can I have his two racers
because he won’t be bringing me a present?” This seemed reasonably
fair to the other 2 children and to me. Robby tried calling Michael
again with no response, and declared the two left-overs to be his.
Vi entered with the first present, a nicely wrapped package con-
taining a bottle of bubble bath in the shape of a brontosaurus. Robby
was pleased. Shortly after, David arrived. His present, the second
and last, was a nicely wrapped package containing a bottle of bubble
bath in the shape of a rocket. Robby: “Oh well, I guess I’ll have to
take lots of baths.” The 2 most recent arrivals inspected their favors
and prizes. All 5 children then fell to making their balloons scream
by letting the air escape through the neck stretched flat. At my
suggestion, the children took Miriam’s beach ball to play in the yard.
The game of choice was ‘keep away.’ I forbade them to keep the ball
away from Miriam (their original plan, since she objected to the game,
probably suspecting that end). Their alternate game pitted Robby and
Raymond against Vi and David. Miriam sulked and sat on her swing.
After a half hour’s play, the children came in for the cake. At
4:10, expecting the party to end with the last of the cake, I was
surprised to hear cries that I had promised to take the children over to
the playground for the prize selection race. I did so, but warned the
children that their stay would be very short because Raymond had a 4:30
deadline at home. The race was run, prizes were distributed, and all
were content except Miriam; David chose the racing car she wanted.
After we dropped David, Vi, and Raymond off at their houses, I told
Robby how unhappy Miriam was. He agreed to work out with her some
distribution of their six racers which she would consider satisfactory.
This party was one arranged by the children according to their
ideas and reflecting the way they coped with unexpected contingencies.
Robby has said since how much he enjoyed the party. Miriam suffered
the younger child’s burden of being left out and left behind.