Sunday, November 10, 2013

First birthday party in Scotland

It has been a busy week. We got back to Glasgow last night after spending a week in Barcelona, Spain. We sold our house (i.e., the sale closed) in North Carolina during our trip. And today Jack attended his first birthday party in Scotland. So there's a lot to write about. I'll start with the easiest to recap.

The toddler birthday party here in Glasgow was just like any toddler party in the U.S. That doesn't surprise me, though part of me wishes there had been some cultural differences or an unusual tradition. But this party, at least, was identical to one you might attend in the States.

About fifteen toddlers -- mostly around the age of two, though a few older and younger siblings tagged along -- gathered at a soft play center to play and then have lunch and cake. Tucked into a series of renovated and repurposed warehouses, Wonder World provides a huge room of climbing structures, mini-football and basketball court, go-karts, and slides, with several party rooms attached on the side.

Ladders and tunnels and slides covered many thousands of square feet.
We were impressed by the painted murals covering the walls.
Jackson's invitation came from Calvin, a neighbor turning two years of age. Calvin and Jackson have had a few chances to play at our nearby playground, but no regular meetings. Most of the other attendees were Calvin's classmates from daycare (it's usually called "nursery" here). Since this was one of Jackson's first real social invitations, we timed our trip to Barcelona in part to make sure we could be back for the party.

The kids -- and parents -- spent most of their time playing in the toddler area, a soft climbing and tumbling area. I think Kate and I were just as excited to play as Jackson. Adults disguise their playing by saying they're "supervising" the kiddos.

Note that while Jackson was playing on the blocks, Kate was playing (who was she "supervising"?) on the ladder in the upper right of the photo.
Jackson discovers Kate lurking in the ball pit.
At one point, Peppa Pig came out to dance and take photos with the wee ones. Jackson wanted to see her -- he's seen the television show once -- but didn't want to get too close. Then, when Peppa left, he was distraught and nearly came to tears. Yet when she showed up again in our small birthday party room, he didn't want her to come near him.

Fascinated, but not ready for a high-five.
Calvin and his guests enjoyed a lunch of pizza, pasta, chips, ice cream, and cake. I inexplicably failed to take a photo of the great firetruck cake that Calvin's parents, Viv and Andrew, made for the party. But it was a big hit with the little ones, who were entranced as soon as it entered the room. After lunch, the staff tried to get the boys and girls to play a game, but most were too young to understand and were, in any case, fading in energy after a couple hours of strenuous exercise.

Digging in to the ice cream.
As I've mentioned before, two-year olds don't generally play with each other, but rather tend to engage in what's called "parallel play" next to each other. Kids that age might throw or kick a ball to each other for a little while, or perhaps play chase, but mostly they don't spend a lot of time interacting with each other. Especially if it's not prompted by an adult. And even then they might quickly lose interest, or one of the kids will not want to share, or an intended hug might clumsily pummel the other off his feet.

But they still can develop buddies or friends with whom they feel more comfortable. After five months here, Jackson still doesn't have any truly consistent buddies. We see a lot of the same kids at a few different playgroups, but those playtimes only last a couple of hours on one or two days during the week. We've also had some playdates with a couple of kids one-on-one, which I think will continue, but they still aren't especially frequent. Meanwhile, Jackson recently has become a bit more shy. Not always -- sometimes he forgets to be shy -- but more so than in the past. I'm not sure if his shyness is just a normal phase, or if perhaps it's a reaction to not going to daycare three days a week and regularly seeing kids his age for eight or nine hours a day.

So it was a nice opportunity for Jackson to be invited to Calvin's party. I'm eager for any chance Jackson gets to play with kids his own age, and this was a fun party for everybody. Calvin and Jack are well-suited temperamentally. I'm hoping, maybe a little too much, that they can develop into genuine friends as they get older. Only time will tell.

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