Being a parent is tough.
Constantly bombarded with ethical choices and moral dilemmas. If I don’t scold them for [insert minor rule infraction] will they grow up to have no respect for me? What if I over -scold them and they grow up to fear pushing any boundaries?
This weekend I face an equally difficult parental dilemma.
It is my son’s birthday and I have to decide who should “win” pass the parcel. I’ve spoken before about the complexity of children’s party games but I’d never realised how much soul searching would be required for this seemingly simple one.
There are a few factors that make this so complex:
Champion Parcel Passer
Firstly, last weekend, my son was at three separate birthday parties and won pass-the-parcel at all of them. He was delighted with himself, a clean sweep! He is absolutely convinced that he is a champion parcel passer and is very much looking forward to showing off his skills to all his friends at his own party.
But you can’t have your own kid win pass-the-parcel on home turf, can you?
So, unbeknownst to him, his streak is about to come to an end. His undefeated record will come crashing down in front of all his friends at his very own 4th birthday party. I’ll be honest, I feel terrible about this, I mean, how cruel does that scenario sound? I’m going to be patching his ego back up for years!
Secondly, the fact that he won at those three previous parties suggests that he is rather liked. I may be reading way too much into this but if those parents put even a modicum of the same level of thought into this game as I have, then they consciously chose my son to be the recipient of the prize. Either because they are particularly close with us as a couple and kindly wanted to give our kid a shout out or they knew that our kid and theirs were close and the prize would be appreciated. Either way I’m touched, and a little proud, that he was considered in such high regard to be fielding a 3-0 score-sheet going into this weekend. The problem is that all three of those kids are coming to his party. It would make sense to do some sort of parental reciprocation but there can only be one winner. Picking one of those three kids to win risks alienating the other two sets of parents.
So that eliminates my son and the three kids from the potential winners list. That leaves 14 more kids to choose from. Surely that should be easy.
Nice guy finishes…
I had thought that I could observe the beginning of the party, see which kid seems to be the nicest, kindest kid there, and give them some just rewards. After all that’s how life should work right? Forget about dark-room deals and mutual back scratching. Set aside any misplaced entitlement due to previous performance. Be a nice and kind person, even when you don’t realise that people are watching, and good things shall come your way.
I could do that. Or, I could really teach them a life lesson.
I might leave the final round entirely up to the pass-the-parcel Gods. Start a song and let it play out, observe the great purity of randomness. Whoever is holding the parcel when the music stops wins the prize. You could be the nicest guy in the world or be the orchestrator of every dodgy deal going, but still none of us know when the music is going to stop.
So my options are:
- Parental reciprocation
- Reward the nicest kid
- Leave it to the pass-the-parcel Gods
- or, in the words of another Dad friend, “F**k those other kids, teach your son to be a winner!”
I shall let you know how it goes!
I’m evidently no Dice Man, I didn’t have the nerve for randomness nor the competitive selfishness for a home victory. I took the easy way out and made it so his best friend won. It worked perfectly because she was delighted and my son vicariously shared in her victory in the way only true friends can.
The rest of the kids? Well 50% of them had already moved on after getting their sweets and the rest immediately disappeared, unphased, back to the bouncy castle and balloons. It’s extremely probable I’m the only one still thinking about this.