Parker turned 6 last week, and the Pirates of the Rocky Hill Caribbean invaded. Kelly and I thought we learned from previous years’ escapades. A regular reader of this space knows that we have struggled the past couple of years maintaining order, discipline, and the American way with these little boys. So this year, we scaled back. We knew better than to reserve your local Chuck E. Cheese. We’re here to make memories—not rent them. But instead of inviting all the school like we did last year, we just invited 12 boys from his class and neighborhood.
We also prepared much earlier than years’ past. With the “Pirate” theme, we had plenty of supplies to order and construct. A boat, cannons, pirate plates, a cave, treasure chest, palm trees, maps, costumes, hats, and yes Pirate cake. For some reason, the County Courthouse does not rent their cannons any longer, so we had to do without mortar shells. Other than that, we were set. We had the best boat to ever sail Dunbarton Oaks neighborhood. We had everything planned for a wonderful two-hour party from 6:00-8:00 p.m. We planned games, prizes, treasure hunts, Pirate piñata (don’t ask), Pirate flags, and Pirate music. We carefully scripted the order of events for 6 year old boys. When each of the swashbucklers arrived, they were to make a flag, say “AAAARRRRGH” and wait the others. Then we would play a rousing game of musical “X-marks-the-spot,” eat hot dogs, have a treasure hunt, eat cake, open presents, and end with a water balloon fight sending them home soaked and satisfied. That, of course, would be our “thank you” to the parents for sending their child.
Instead, chaos ensued. I knew we were in trouble when the first pirate arrived early. Soon 1200 others followed. Instead of making the required flag, they immediately broke into a sword fight. And then the ultimate nightmare—a storm at sea. The weather had been beautiful all day. At 6:19 p.m., the winds shifted and the hull of the boat collapsed. With thunder all around, we quickly assembled the troops under the tree (I’m not kidding) to beat the helpless piñata, grab as much candy as possible, and duck for cover. Parker quickly abandoned ship when he heard the thunder. As a 6 year old, he knows ALL ABOUT THUNDER. He ran to the house thinking that it was the end of the world. Somehow we convinced him that this was not the Apocalypse. He returned to his birthday party and played a wonderful game of “it’s not really thunder; it’s the cannons!”
Kelly and I made the command decision to abandon the order of operations in case it began to rain. We shifted gears and had the water balloon fight before the wind lifted the palm trees into Loudon County. We gathered then for a quick Pirate story while the hotdogs were being assembled. We were thankful to have the grandparents on food duty, and they helped us manage. With the thunder subsiding and the rain holding off, we began looking for the buried treasure. It took these scrappy boys approximately 2.3 minutes to find the treasure and 30 seconds to tear it apart. It was now 6:50 p.m., and we had finished all the games. After pirate cupcakes, Parker opened presents, and we still had 50 minutes to go with nothing else planned. We improvised, played a game of Pirate limbo in the garage and let them run through the yard having another sword fight. By 7:40, Kelly had enough of the free-for-all, gathered the group for a session of “Duck-duck-pirate,” and closed with “Pirates of the Caribbean”—the movie.
When the little “Captain Jack Sparrow’s” left, the yard was destroyed, the palm trees were in pieces, and the hot dogs cold. The best news-- we survived to enjoy our memories. As the rain fell at 8:20, I was grateful for a creative wife, an excited son, and another year to sympathize with the staff of Chuck E. Cheese. But next year, instead of the “Pirates” theme, I think “Gilligan’s Island” will be more appropriate.