Last week, my 6 year-old and I attended a birthday party for one of his friends. As the mother of three young children, I find myself at one of these parties about every 6.5 seconds. Either the years are going by faster now that I’m entering my fourth decade of life or people are celebrating their children’s birthdays more than once a year. Usually, these parties have a simple, almost comforting, rhythm: welcome, activity, food, cake, goodie bags, farewell. And usually, the food is something our kids have apparently agreed upon as a universally acceptable birthday food – pizza.
I’m not against my children eating pizza at birthday parties. They live in their own “kid culture” and I don’t want them to feel like foreigners there by being the only child whose mother forbids the consumption of pizza. (I love eating pizza, on occasion.) I’ve also always believed that it’s the foods we eat on a regular, day-to-day basis that become our staples – and our comfort foods later in life. So, birthday pizza doesn’t scare me. But the party we attended last week surprised me.
When we arrived, I noticed little ziploc baggies of food hanging in the trees, peeking out from behind the play structure and hidden at regular intervals around the small park we were celebrating in. There were baby carrots, small bunches of grapes and even tiny cheese and cucumber sandwiches, all neatly wrapped up and tied with colorful ribbons. After playing a short game of soccer, the children came running for lunch and were told that they had to find their food in the woods around them. They each got a paper bag with a handle, so they could use their hands to climb part way up the trees if necessary…and suddenly, it was like an Easter egg hunt! The children squealed and ran off to forage in the woods.
When the hunter-gatherers came back, rosy cheeked and now really hungry, they dumped their spoils on a common picnic table, where paper plates and drinks awaited them. By this time, even the carrots were looking pretty good to the majority of these 6 year-olds. It was a brilliant twist on the traditional birthday party lunch and I looked at the hostess in admiration. The only thing that could have made that healthy approach to a birthday lunch better was if I’d been the one to think of it! Well done, Tamar. I’d tip my hoodie in admiration, but I think there’s a bag of baby carrots in there…