Unless you are a first time parent you will have more than just the birthday child to consider when throwing a party. Brothers and sisters can have an especially important role in determining the success or failure of your party. Sibling rivalry can have a very big impact on how the birthday child behaves and feels on their special day.
As a children’s entertainer of many years experience, I have felt the impact of sibling rivalry first hand at many a party. In its sweetest way it often manifests as a young birthday girl in a pink dress sitting in front of me at the face painting table, requesting gravely to be painted as Spiderman. Subsequently when I ask if the birthday girl has a big brother, the darling nods her sweet head in enthusiasm; it’s flattery at its highest, little sister wanting to please big brother by painting herself as one of his heroes. ( Of course I’m not saying that all girls should be painted in a ‘girly’ fashion, but this request has become too commonplace not to have made the connection. Go, go you non-‘girly’ girls, I’m all for you!)
But not all sibling rivalry is that sweet.
There is one simple thing to remember when it comes to dealing with children, most especially boys, and that is that saving face is all and that makes it doubly important not to try to apply labels to our children, even with good intention. Children are by their very nature, ‘pleasers’, they want to do things to keep grown-ups happy. If a grown-up of influence has told a child that they are ‘too big to enjoy baby stuff‘ then that grown-up has removed any potential for that child to then be involved in anything that they think may betray their need to be big. Does that make sense? Then that sibling will not allow him or herself to be involved with anything that their younger sibling does in fear of being labelled babyish. I’ve seen many an older brother playing with his peers at his younger sibling’s birthday party, desperately wanting to be noticed and to be able to be involved , but terribly aware that if he did get involved by watching the puppet show then he would be a baby, like his sibling. Often this ends up with the older sibling disrupting the goings on by running through the entertainment, so they can have attention but not be involved at the same time. Kids are great at being resourceful and finding ways around fulfilling their own needs. I’ve often witnessed older siblings peeking through the cracks of doors so as to enjoy the entertainment incognito. I make sure I don’t betray their subterfuge!
I can easily understand how a well-meaning parent can inadvertently encourage this sort of thing by thinking that their older sibling will not enjoy their young siblings birthday party entertainment and then organise a play date with a few of their friends to run concurrently upstairs while the party goes on downstairs. They then wonder why the play date keeps drifting downstairs to disrupt the party. They aren’t being naughty, they are just wanting to join in the fun. Who can blame them when I have parents telling me how much they enjoyed the entertainment themselves? They are surely way too big to enjoy such babyish nonsense? Or are they?
Anyone who knows me at all will know that I’m an ardent believer in keeping the inner child alive for a happy and healthy life.
Big brothers and sisters aren’t too big to enjoy stuff. Trust me. Let them make up their own minds if they have grown out of their childish ways. Childhood is short enough without us protracting it even further for those children who are still children.
Try not to tell the older sibling they are too old /too big/ too grown up to enjoy anything. Take the lead from them and let them decide. Then the child won’t be forced to save face.
I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see children of all ages, from 2 up to grown-ups ( yes it has been known folks!) including older siblings, hopping up and down with Bobby Bunny in my puppet show. Having fun together brings the family together and creates a wonderfully warm atmosphere that is worth more than gold.
I suppose this post is about age appropriateness again. I find the subject a little contentious. In my opinion anything goes as long as it is done in the right spirit and there is no condescension involved. No one likes to be patronized. Being child-centred for me means leading from the child’s perspective. Surely all children are still children until they are grown up. We don’t suddenly stop being children just because we have a younger sibling do we?
So take that leap of faith and let the older sibling join in instead . A sensitive entertainer will enlist the older siblings help to ‘control’ the children ( in words only, it’s just a way of giving the older children a role so that they can sit back and enjoy the show without feeling silly). Or in my case, get up and hop!