Not All Parties are Gonna Be Awesome

As we headed out the door and to my car the to Big Brother Big Sisters of the Mass Bay’s holiday party with L, she told me “I think this party is going to be fun!” I agreed.

Hosted at FitRec, the fitness and recreation center located, coincidentally, a block from my office at BU, the party was kid-driven, with rock wall climbing, cookie decorating, board games, basketball, cornhole, crafts, pizza, a scavenger hunt and more. When L and I arrived we were greeted with a line a block long to get in. It moved along quickly, and existed because all the children needed signed releases from their parents to enter, and we had to check in, which slowed things down a bit.

We entered the somewhat organized (but fun!) chaos and took in the scene. We started with lunch and had a slice of pizza on one of the benches which were located around the periphery of the gym. There was an area with many round tables but there were only two or three chairs at each, despite there being room for at least two more. After pizza, we entered the raffle drawing and L decided she wanted to try rock wall climbing. So we made our way to the end of the rock wall line after getting her some shoes at the direction of the others in line. We were there for about ten minutes when a rep from BBBS came along and started collecting tickets. I asked what the tickets were for and she answered “they’re time slot reservations”

It turns out that you needed to sign up for a climbing time slot and, of course, they were all filled up at this point. There was no sign indicating you needed a reservation, and no one from BBBS checking with people in line to ensure they knew this either.

L, I have to say, is one of the most resilient people I know. She took the shoes back and put her boots back on and said nothing. No complaining, no whining, nothing. Even though I knew she was disappointed.

We made our way back upstairs and I suggested we decorate a cookie. She agreed, and when we approached the table, two people from BBBS looked at us blankly. After a long beat I said “Can we decorate a cookie?”

“Oh sure!” they quasi-snapped out of it and one of them handed us a clean sugar cookie before adding “we’re out of frosting, but you can still put some sprinkles on.”

Really? You can put tiny, globe-shaped sprinkles on a dry cookie? L put her pathetic sad cookie in a provided takeaway container and added sprinkles where all the ingredients hung-out together, rolling around, looking very inedible (this was not more than half-way though a three-hour event. They should not have run out of frosting).

Next, I sat with her while she quietly made an ornament, then, determined to rally, we decided to play some corn hole. It was fun and helped brighten our spirits!

Buoyed, we got in a long line for L to run an obstacle course, which included foam structures to climb, a tunnel to crawl through, some cones to run around, etc. We watched as a boy landed on his face when he jumped an obstacle and miscalculated. “Yeah, that looks like it’s foam so you have to be careful when you jump on it (because it will give way under you more than you’ll likely anticipate)”  I told her as the boy got up and continued on in the course.

L was up next, and she took off running. On the first obstacle, the foam triangle got the better of her too and she fell flat on her face. She was perfectly uninjured, but got up and walked straight back to me, sporting a poker face.

“You don’t want to finish?” I asked, knowing full well she was too embarrassed that she fell in front of this long line to do so. She shook her head and I told her “I probably would have fallen there too”

After a run to the restroom, I laid out our options, brightly saying “we could play a board game, or we could do another craft, or my office is a block from here and I can give you a little tour of where I work!”


So, we were outta there. In truth, I think if it were a regular outing, I would have just shrugged and thought Not every outing is going to be great, and that’s fine!  But she had been so excited about this event, and with it being out Christmas outing? Well, it needed to be salvaged.

We got in my car and I drove a block beyond my office to the grocery store. As we rode the escalator up into the store, I filled her in on what we were doing there, “We need frosting for that cookie”. She grinned, and as I spotted a smiling balloon as we passed through the florist section, I reached out to it, adding “And we need this balloon too”


I clipped it on the cuff of her sweater and we ventured on as she beamed over her shiny, sudden acquisition.

Back in my office, she carefully applied the green frosting she’d picked out, and added the sprinkle that were rolling around in the bottom of the take-away container. It looked much less sad now.

After that, I brought her across the hall to our photo studio, where a backdrop was set-up for our Ugly Sweater contest which I’d been shooting photos for all week. I showed her what all the pieces of equipment do, and had a moment that gave me pause, when I pointed at a device that attached to my camera and is used to fire off the flash remotely to light the photo. This device is called a “radio slave“.

(Although I just looked up the definition of the word “slave” and the following is included:
a device, or part of one, directly controlled by another.
“a slave cassette deck”

So maybe it’s not horribly inappropriate to keep calling it that?

I took some photos of her in the studio, quickly showed her the photo editing process, sent a photo to her mom with the note “I’ll let your daughter explain why we ended up doing a mini-photo shoot at my office today”, and headed home.

As I dropped her off, she looked up at her balloon and said “This balloon is way better than that bad party”

Better luck next time.


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