Every once in a while I manage to get up off my butt and transform myself into what would appear to be a reasonably cool dad. I should do that more often, because soon enough no matter how hard I try my daughters will eventually see me as the dork that I truly am and not want to be found anywhere near me. Yesterday was one of these special occasions, being the date of Natalie's 8th birthday party. Remember that scene in the movie "Parenthood" when Steve Martin dresses up as a cowboy and appears at his son's birthday party on a real horse? I was shooting for that level of amazement, though I think I managed somewhere on the safe end of the range between Steve Martin and that guy who tried to sell his kids to a Phillipino sweatshop.
It appears that birthday #8 is one of the last hurrahs, the last time parents seem to be required to go all out and spend hundreds of dollars on pony rides, Build-A-Bear reservations, or moon bounces before the next year when sleepovers become the norm. However, being the cheap scrooge that I am, I was determined to resurrect the idea of a good ol' backyard barbecue rather than feeding the consumerism machine. Lucky for me, those fine folks in Beijing gave me an idea. I sold Natalie on the idea of a Backyard Olympics, complete with opening ceremonies, team competition and gold medals.
The night before the big event, I spent hours hot-gluing chocolate coins to ribbons and coming up with goofy names for picnic games like the Hangin' On By A Thread Tug-O-War and the Hanna Montana Banana Bonanza, while the wife dutifully gathered plasticware and drink boxes.
Somewhat unexpectedly, every girl that Natalie invited to the party accepted the invitation, meaning we were host to 23 screaming little girls, a number that even in their heyday was probably daunting to folks like The Beatles and Vanilla Ice.
My evil plan for the day included a number of backyard games involving potato sacks, water balloons, and blindfolds. The girls were divided into two teams (the Pink Cyclones and Purple Infernos). The opening ceremonies began to the Olympic Fanfare playing on the outdoor speakers (thank you peer-to-peer sharing sites) and, while I decided to forgo the two thousand and eight synchronized drummers for budget purposes, I even had the birthday girl ascend the steps of the deck to light the Olympic Tiki Torch and announce the start of the games.
Overall the competition was quite a success and conveniently ended with a tie between the two teams. The injury list was low, with only one skinned knee, a bee sting, and some rope burn. The highlight of the games came at the end of the water balloons, when one of the more astute (read: evil) children discovered the stash of extra water ballons and gathered her fellow Olympiads together in a terrorist plot to turn the World's Coolest Dad into the World's Wettest Dad. The plan worked, especially when the hired help (our babysitter) assisted by grabbing a handy five-gallon bucket of water and dumping it on my head (she's like totally fired, by the way). I also found that I am no match for 23 little girls in a tug-o-war.
At the end of the day, when the girls dragged their exhausted limbs home coming down from highs of frosting, chips, and adrenaline, as if being one heck of a party host wasn't enough the birthday girl insisted that I join her on a test run of one her new gifts, the Hannah Montana Wii game. It was then that she learned that her World's Coolest Dad has the musical rhythm of your average bowl of Oatmeal. Well, you win some, you lose some.