We had campout sleepovers for our boys birthday parties this year. Our country home is surrounded by nature and no neighbors (well, of the human variety) and serves as a great venue for outdoor tomfoolery. There are some subtle differences between an 8 year old’s campout and a 4 year old’s.
Your average 8 year old boy eats just enough to survive when presented with meals created with all organic, fresh ingredients prepared with thoughtfulness and love. When offered a buffet of pizza, smores, chips, sodas, muffins, donuts etc… he will suddenly eat like a linebacker during spring training. We fed seven 8 and 9 year old boys. Next year we will plan ahead and take out a second mortgage to feed them. Although, I probably could have saved a lot of money by not buying any water, fruit or vegetables. When they had mined all the sodas out of the cooler and all that was left was bottled water their reactions were kind of like, “Mrs. Park, there is something wrong with this Coke. It is clear and has no fizz or taste. I think you got ripped off.”
Feeding four year olds looks like this:
- Pick up four year old and place him in chair.
- Put food in front of four year old and remind him he “likes this”.
- Tell four year old to take a bite.
- Tell four year old to take another bite.
- See Step 4.
- Eventually the words “take a bite” stop sounding like words when you say them, so you figure that must mean the four year old probably has enough food in his belly.
- Eat the rest of four year old’s food.
A herd of 8 year olds break off into herdlets thus necessitating adult chaperones to pick a group and travel with them and say with great conviction, “Wow, you are right! This 83rd frog you found is much different than the previous 82 you showed me.” “No, sweetie, I don’t think he wants to come in the house.” “Yes, honey, I’m sure your mommy doesn’t want you to bring him home.” A mob of eight year olds are not interested in organized games, toys, or a movie. They want to run, with sticks and flashlights through fields. I am pleased to say the tradition of Snipe Hunts continues. Our group found Snipe tracks (which looked remarkably similar to our dogs’ tracks) and bones and feathers (oddly reminiscent of a bulb of last year’s cotton). They also definitely heard and maybe even saw a coyote or probably something even scarier, like a wolf.
Four year olds do a million things within the span of five minutes: See frog, pick up frog, get peed on by frog, ask a question, pick nose, put on cape, jump on trampoline, ask a question, run through field, play with 37 toys, ask for a drink, forget to take a drink, dump out ALL the legos, play tag, find weapons, ask a question, take a drink, run through tent, run through house, ask a question and repeat…
Eight year old boys have much fascinating information to share, their only problem is they have yet to master the skill of talking with adults. (You probably knew this stuff once too, but all that information has now been replaced by all the lyrics of every song made from 1995-2011, when you had to stop learning new music because you realized it was taking away from your ability to recall semi important stuff like your child’s name, uh, I mean, social security number.) Anyway, eight year old boys have a few years worth of facts they have learned at school and really, really need to share.
Child: “Mrs. Park, did you know that these are not actually frogs? They are toads. And, did you know that toads breathe through their skin? And that they really like water? And that tadpoles are a frog’s babies?”
Me: “Well, I did not kno…”
Child runs away upon accidentally making eye contact with adult.
Four year old boys have no information. Just giant, inquisitive eyes and loads of penetrating questions.
Child: “Why don’t you have any bathrooms?? (we have three) Where is Connor’s bed?? (you are sitting on it) Do you have weapons for us to fight all the tigers?? (Uh…) Do you have another baby in your belly? (that one came from my kid) When is it going to be bedtime???
Boys are born with lots of Energy. Every nap they have been forced to take since infancy has hampered their use of Energy, thus they have stored all excess Energy in a special reserve tank in their bodies (scientists think the appendix) for Emergency Situations, like, say, a campout birthday party. Their Energy reserves are usually directly proportioned to their volume output. However, this is not always a trustworthy method of gauging when their Energy resources are depleting, because occasionally they quiet down in order to access their body’s other Energy safe-houses (tonsils and gallbladders). Your best hope of a good night’s sleep when hosting a sleepover with a bunch of eight year old boys is to include a questionnaire in the invitation, asking the invited child’s parent if their child has had surgery to remove their appendix, tonsils, and/or gall bladder. This will give you a good way to gauge each child’s Party Energy Levels. By the way, if you can figure out a way to ask this question in an invitation without it being “weird” or “none of your business” or whatever, let me know.
The good news is four year olds are still building up their reserves so at 9:00 pm they start rubbing their eyes, asking “when is it gonna be bedtime??” and “Are we ever gonna sleep??”
By way of concluding this very important and also informative guide to boys: