Saturday, November 1, 2008

Instant Party, or, Perfection is the Enemy of Fun

Great Halloween times at our house on Friday, and a big realization for me. That is, to me it was big—this may be something everybody else already knows—but I struggle with issues of, well, let’s just call it perfection, though I’m really, really not a perfectionist. (More on this below.) So the realization was this: kids don’t want to have the Perfect Halloween. They don’t even have a concept of what “The Perfect Halloween” would signify. Because, all by itself, Halloween means you dress up, run around outside with your friends, and get candy from strangers. At night. That is what is called a good time, and it can hardly be improved upon.

My perfection issues center not on things so much as on the desire to create “perfect” experiences for my people. Hospitality, for me, is all wrapped up in this, so if you come to stay at my house, I want to figure out exactly how you want to be accommodated. I want your space to be clean and peaceful, and for you to feel totally comfortable at all times. I want everything about the visit to make you feel good and happy, and I will go to great lengths with this in mind. I probably should worry less about the mental state of others, but it's what I do. And needless to say, when kids visit, and it’s a holiday, I want them to have a super fun time.

We have houseguests this weekend—our friends Houston and Brenda and their three boys. All afternoon the kids were having a great time playing outside and getting their costumes together. Then it was time to carve pumpkins, and part of me was thinking, “Well, we can’t just carve these pumpkins, it has to be a magical, thought-out experience.” I was regretting that I hadn’t planned more of a little Halloween party for these five children. Then I realized that, duh, they’re having a great time with each other, and they were looking forward to getting their hands on some pumpkins. There wasn’t really a lot I needed to add. Also, I didn’t need to do any work on making these jack o’ lanterns look super artistic—a jack o’ lantern with symmetrical features is not more appealing than a jack o’ lantern created by a child with imperfect cutting skills. So we covered the breakfast table with white paper, and Houston, bless him, cut the things open.

All the kids, including the two year-olds, gathered around to help. The kids were already in their costumes. They had fun scooping the guts out. Or scooping some of the guts out. Plenty of guts were left in. We gave the big kids little pumpkin knives, and they went to town.

Hank had a plastic knife to brandish. They really got into it. While they were at it, I remembered that last year, while this same crowd was carving pumpkins, I had made sherbet punch in a punchbowl. I guess I was more awesome last year? So I just grabbed some Halloween paper cups, put a spoonful of vanilla ice cream in each, and poured club soda and cranberry juice on it. I thought it would be red, and punch-like, and that the kids might think it was festive. They seemed convinced. So each kid made a pumpkin to their own specifications, and they were totally wonky and charming.

I love how they turned out, with no adult design help. Laura's, on the left, follows the rules. Gary's has a big crazy smile, and the tiny, tiny features on Solomon's really respect the structural integrity and, I think, the dignity of the gourd. No downloading templates, no dremel, no fuss. Then we trick-or-treated until they were ready to come home. (Kids, when you complain that your candy is getting too heavy, it's time to go home.) It was the first time Hank ever went farther than next door trick-or-treating, and I will never forget the sight of him tramping up to each door, and the way he said "Trick-or-Treat," "Thank you," and "Happy Halloween" so carefully every time. Then he would turn to me and say, "More Trick-or-Treat?" He was, like, how could anything be this wonderful?

So, lesson learned: I need to chill, kids don't need a lot of super-mom organization to have a good time, and it's the process, not the outcome, that is fun. Please remind me of this every day until January 1.

Hope you had a fine time at your place!


Veronica said...

1. Those pumpkins are rad.
2. The last time I saw Hank, he was small enough to have both Tummy TIme and Nap Time on an ottoman. Now he is in a horse costume, saying "Trick or Treat?" and "Thank You" and Happy Halloween"!!! It is time for me to visit again, OBVIOUSLY!!!


Hootie said...

If we have taught our children nothing else, we have impressed upon them the need to respect the dignity of the gourd.

Also, I thought throwing ice cream and juice into a cup was a masterstroke that would have required weeks of planning if I had attempted it. Perfection achieved.

Sidebar: is there some "meta" significance to commenting on a blog using the same computer that the blog was created on? Seems like maybe I could just tell you my comments face to face. But here, there is the illusion of permanance. And the possibility of entertaining others... which is of course the driving force of my existence. That and finding a cure for world peace.

Amy said...

I think they did a much better job on the pumpkins than I could've! The kids look great--LOVE Hank's costume. :) Sounds like a pretty perfect time to me!

Um...what's "dremel"?