Yesterday was my son’s 9th birthday party. His actual birthday is in July but to ensure his friends would be available to come (i.e. not on summer vacation) we decided to have the party in June.
Every year we try to have a fun, active, usually outdoor party with his friends. This year the steaks were higher. We moved to a new city last summer so this party would include mainly new friends. Being the “new kid” also meant that he was not invited to any other birthday parties this year, which was hard for him. He watched longingly as his younger brother in kindergarten went to several birthday parties throughout the school year. So this birthday party took on so much more meaning for him…and for me.
Last year we held his party at the YMCA. They provide a staff member to help organize, supervise, and play with the kids. Since I have 2 other younger children, this extra help was amazing! Worth every penny. I considered repeating that party at our local YMCA but I really wanted to get back outdoors–but with help this time. I discovered that Shade’s Mills and many of the other Conservation Areas do birthday parties. Sweet! Since we had had a run of really warm, dry weather, this seemed like an ideal location.
There were several party themes available. We chose “Fins, fish, and other creatures”. It involved going to a stream with nets and fishing out interesting creatures. How cool is that? We also opted to extend the party an extra hour so we could have a camp fire and roast hot dogs. Seriously, a little boy’s dream. Kind of like day camping. And someone else was organizing it and providing all the gear. A mother’s dream.
The thing about dry spells is they come to an end…
In the 10 days leading up to the party there was more rain than sun. There was also a severe thunderstorm and a tornado (it didn’t touch down here exactly but it was close-ish and the risk was there all day). Every day I pulled up the weather network app on my phone to check the long range forecast. Some days the forecast was great. Phew. Other days, it wasn’t.
The day of the party arrived and it didn’t look good. Rain off and on all morning, forecast for thunderstorms in the afternoon. 2 hours before the party, a staff member from Shade’s Mills called us. I thought “this is it, they’re cancelling it”. I was given the option to reschedule but I was also told we could take shelter in the Nature Centre and do games and crafts. I couldn’t cancel it. I didn’t want to disappoint my son. And we could stay inside–no problem! I told the woman that I didn’t mind if the kids got wet but I didn’t want them outside in a thunderstorm. She agreed. We decided to stay the course.
I was not a fun person to be around in the hours leading up to the party. My husband can attest to that. My anxiety was through the roof. I was afraid no one would show up or that we wouldn’t be able to entertain a group of crazy boys inside the small Nature Centre for 3 hours.
1pm arrived. Most of the invited guests arrived and most were dressed for the weather: rain gear and boots. A few weren’t but luckily the Nature Centre had boots we could borrow. One boy was given hip waders–awesome! As the rain intensified I assured parents that we could stay in the Nature Centre if the weather was bad. “Pick up at 4pm?” one parent asked looking somewhat concerned. “Yeah, we’re crazy like that” I said trying to sound upbeat and confident.
I was not confident. Actually, I was fairly confident the party was going to be a bust and that I would have to frantically email parents to come pick up their kids early. Maybe I’d cram a few of them in van and drive them home early myself.
After all the parents left, the Shade’s Mills staff person–Lindsey–pulled me aside and suggested we go out now before the risk of thunderstorm intensified. What? I looked outside: pouring. And I’m from Vancouver, I know rain. I know all the many words to describe rain. I know that when it’s sprinkling it’s not really rain. Not even umbrella or hood worthy. This was the type of rain that when you pull into the grocery store parking lot, you contemplate waiting it out for awhile, letting it settle a bit, before you open your door and dash in. And I was taking 8 kids–one without a jacket–outside in this. I reminded myself that I played in the rain as a kid–I had too, it was Vancouver! If you didn’t go outside in the rain, you didn’t go outside at all! It wasn’t cold outside, it was just wet. My inner critic protested “but what will the parents think?”
So I did the only logical thing I could do. I gave the boy without a jacket an umbrella and off we went!
It was a bit of a hike to the stream. I was soaked by the time we arrived, and I knew the kids were too. What I didn’t realize when I booked the party was that the kids were actually going IN the stream. So off they went, already soaked, into the stream with their nets. They found crayfish and hundreds of water striders. They all managed to fill their boots with water–even the kid with hip waders! We stayed at the stream for a little over an hour and by the time we hiked back, the rain stopped. I took the kids inside the Nature Centre, helped them dry off and gave them a snack. Lindsey–our amazing guide–went outside and started a camp fire (did I mention how wet it was? Lindsey was truly amazing).
On the way to the camp fire, we spotted an American Toad. My 5 year old held on to him for a good 15 minutes.