Monday, April 19, 2010

Divas in Munchkinland

This weekend featured my daughter's seventh birthday. This year, my little girl had a unique request for celebrating her special day--at least for a seven-year-old. A few months back, Emerson asked if my wife and I would rent a couple of rooms at a hotel with an indoor pool and let her and her friends have an overnighter that would involve swimming, fingernail painting, movies, popcorn, and more girlish screaming and giggling than the human eardrum is capable of withstanding. Our initial reaction to her idea was to say "No." Hotel rooms for first-grade girls? What is this, "Divas in Munchkinland?" But then we did the math. A couple of hotel rooms and some large pizzas actually priced cheaper than renting out one of those inflatable fun houses or reserving space at the parental hell-on-earth known as Chuck E Cheeses. So, having a change of heart, my wife did some research and found a good hotel that fit the bill. Last Friday, having secured a location, Meredith and a couple of mommy volunteers who had seriously underestimated the nerve-severing task they were taking on, headed off to a nearby Fairfield Inn with Emerson and her little posse.

Where was I in all this? I had two assignments. One, I was to look after my boys while Mommy and the mini-divas did their "girl thing." Two, I was in charge of pizza delivery. It was my job to make sure that pizzas arrived on time. I didn't disappoint. In fact, I was early. Much of the credit for my punctuality goes to my sons. Knowing that there would be a pool at the hotel, William and Carson were both dressed in their bathing suits by ten o'clock that morning. Carson even spent a good portion of the afternoon wearing a floatation device around the house. To my knowledge, no other human being has ever been so water-safety conscious while eating Graham Crackers on the couch and watching re-runs of Clifford the Big Red Dog.

The boys and I eventually arrived with our pizzas around 5 p.m. Going directly to the indoor pool, we entered to be greeted by the most overwhelming scene of chaos and ear-piercing screeching I've ever experienced. It's one thing to put ten screaming, hyper little girls in a room. It's quite another when you put them in a confined pool area that echoes like the grand canyon, multiplying the volume of each scream, yell, laugh, and "Look at me!" a hundred fold. I wasn't in the pool area more than five minutes before I was scanning my cell phone, hoping to find Dr. Kevorkian's number on my speed dial. No such luck.

Then came the real horrifying part: I had to get in the pool with my sons. Meredith and the other mom had not brought their swimsuits (cowards!). Meanwhile, any other adult who might have otherwise entered the pool area had fled for their lives rather than be crushed by the wave of birthday anarchy rushing in on the tide of Emerson's birthday entourage. That made me the only grown-up in the pool. No sooner had I descended into the waters of despair than I heard little voices screaming, "Get him!... Jump on Mr. Howard... Let's see who can climb to the top of his head first!..." Before I knew it, I found myself entangled amongst tiny arms from every direction. Six and seven-year-old girls hung from my arms, my shoulders, my neck. At one point I could only see from one eye. I felt like Jackie Chan trying to fight his way through an army of Kung Fu warriors. As my useless cries of "Let go of Mr. Howard's esophagus," went unheeded, I looked to see Carson and William standing on the side of the pool, wide-eyed and terrified by the carnage. Eventually, I was able to shake off my assailants and make it to safety. Like a soldier who had just reached a bunker after dodging fire on an open beach, I sat there on the side of the pool, breathing heavy and thanking God that I'd made it out alive.

Other than my near death experience, it was a great night. We eventually made our way up to the hotel rooms where I delivered the pizzas, rubbed my temples, and attempted to go to my "happy place" as the giggles, screams, and squeals continued through pizza-devouring, cake-eating, and gift-opening. I heard terms like "Silly Bands" and "Zhu Zhu Pets." I learned that necklaces made from bottle caps are cool, and that iCarly is now the coolest girl on television because Hannah Montana is "so kindergarten." All in all, it was an enlightening glimpse into the world of seven-year-old girls. Finally, leaving the girls to enjoy their sleepover, William, Carson, and I said our good-byes and headed back to the house to watch Kung Fu Panda.

After all the madness, another birthday is in the books. My little princess is growing up more and more. I've still got a few years before she's a teenager; even more before she's ready to leave for college. But I try to remember that it will come faster than I realize and that I'd better savor each day I have with her. Thanks mainly to Meredith, this year's birthday was clearly a success. It was also educational. I now know that a Zhu Zhu Pet is a mechanical rodent that often has an easier time winning your child's attention than you do. Silly Bands are cheap rubber bands that parents are forced to pay $5 a bag for because some marketing genius has convinced kids that they "just have to have some." And I learned that a part of the human brain dies when exposed to long periods of little-girl screaming within an echoing chamber. Oh well, happy birthday, Emerson. I love you. But next year, maybe we can go back to one of those inflatable fun houses.

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