Andrew and I went to our first kids Christmas party today.
We have met this group of women who met when they were all on Maternity leave from their teaching jobs. They started a weekly breakfast and a weekly swimming time to hang out together and get out of the house for the year. Gradually, a few other women (myself included) ended up being invited to and tagging along with this group. Well, today one of them held a Christmas party for all her son's "friends". I felt like I was entering a whole new world.
To begin with, we were an hour late. I had decided to make jiozas (see post above) before hand, and by the time I was done that at 9:30, Andrew had torn the kitchen and living room apart, so we had to tidy up his mess and the floury countertop and get dressed before we could leave. We left the house at around 10:30. The party, incidentally, started at 10:30.
As we were driving out to the main road, I realized two things: a) we needed gas and b) I didn't have my wallet. So we went back to the house. Then we went to get gas. By the time we had finished all that it was 10:50.
At this point, I need to explain something about Saskatchewan. All the land in the entire province, except for Reserve land, was at one point parcelled out to individual farmers by quarter sections. The entire southern half of the province is more or less covered in gravel grid roads, all of which used to have their own little towns and communities every 15 miles or so. Most of those communities are ghost towns, and many of those who are still farming now farm several full sections rather than just a quarter section. The grid roads, however, are still there. But for whatever reason, no one has ever bothered to give most of them NAMES or NUMBERS of any kind. So directions to anyone's farm tend to be along the line of "you go 5 miles and then turn west at the road after the Bowmar Seeds sign, then you go 2 miles and turn north . . . ".
I should also explain something about myself. I get lost a lot. I have a very poor sense of direction, especially when thinking in terms of north and east. I also tend to confidently set out to places, assured that I know exactly how to get there, only to discover that I am going the wrong way. The only way I ever get anywhere is to break out the map and carefully chart my course, then keep the map within arms reach and refer to it after every turn to make sure I haven't got turned around.
Let us suffice to say, for the sake of brevity, that it took me another 40 min. to get there, and I explored several grid roads around the house where the party was taking place. By the time we got there, all other 11 or 12 children and their parents were already at the party, and all the good toys were gone. I still had to boil water and cook the jioza before lunch, which was in about 30 min. So I quickly greeted everyone, trying my best to get into the kitchen to get the silly things cooked (I should have just baked muffins instead of trying to show off). I got Andrew suitably distracted, asked one of the other parents to keep an eye on him, and darted into the kitchen.
The gyoza got cooked, but in the meantime, Andrew was brought to me, sobbing. His fingers had been run over by an enthusiastic child on a tricycle. That was the end of Andrew's independent play for the day. So he sat on the counter top and drank juice while I boiled water and chatted with whoever was in the kitchen and tried to stay out of the way (this is easier said than done when you are 8 months pregnant) while the other food was put on the table and served. By the time the jioza were ready, about half the people had already got their food, and only about 4 or 5 people even tried the jioza -- I should have known better than to bring exotic food to a pot luck in Saskatchewan. I should have made jelly salad.
So then Andrew and I sat down to lunch on the floor, as did all the other parents and kids. Most of the parents are those responsible middle class kind of parents who thought to bring a chair to sit their child in, and so their children actually ate food. My son was sitting on the ground, and he ate two pear slices before he ran off to play with all the now abandoned toys. It was about here that I realized that I was the only woman who had not brought her husband with her to the party. Oops.
I ate, and Andrew was mesmerized with a plastic push-truck that made sounds and had exciting battery operated moving bits, so lunch was fine. It was nice to visit with some of the women that I hadn't seen since they went back to work, and all was well.
Then, we gathered all the children to sing songs at one end of the room. The mom who was hosting the party is a school librarian, so she is very organized. The words to the songs were all typed up on her laptop and projected on the wall. There was a keyboard there to accompany us. All the other little children danced, and did the actions, and rang their little jingle bell arm bands more or less in time with the music. My son sat and watched. Every time I tried to get him to jingle his bells, or do an action, or participate in any way he would say, matter-of-factly, "No." At least I won't have to worry much about peer pressure effecting him when he's older. While the children sang and danced, the parents that were not holding them started running around with cameras, taking pictures of them being good social animals at their first Christmas party. It was then that I realized that I had forgotten my camera. Oops.
After this, Santa showed up with the sack of presents we had all donated to the cause. Once Andrew realized that all he had to do was go up to this guy to get a present he happily went up (holding my hand, of course) and took a present out of Santa's sack. I knew him well enough not to ask if he wanted to sit on Santa's knee. We got a book and a little snake flashlight. He liked the book, and whenever I show him the snake flashlight (which opens its mouth and hisses when you push the flashlight button) he says "I don't want it." I coveted the parents whose children got foam floor puzzles and blocks.
Then the official part of the party was over, and the hostess turned on the Chipmunks Chrsitmas video. All the other kids, who mostly have the tv on all the time at home paid no attention and went about their business. Andrew was glued to the tv for the entire show, which gave me the opportunity to get packed up and ready to go. I visited for a bit, and then we left.
It was a fun party, but I felt, as usual, like I had not quite got it "right". Oh well. Someone has to be the odd duck, and I'm generally a good candidate; apparently my son intends to continue this tradition into the next generation. At least he'll always have an understanding parent to talk to about it.