A few weeks ago, my daughter Norah asked if she could host an Alice In Wonderland tea party at our house for a few of her friends. I was hesitant. Saying yes is not my default parenting reply, but in this case, I decided to go with it. Our schedule was open, I trusted Norah to plan and host the event well, and so I said yes.
Norah and her friend Liz planned everything on their own. The chose the menu, outlined the decorations, found the recipes, made a grocery list, and delegated different tasks between them. I pick up the groceries, and Liz’s mom provided the flowers and the tea pots. Other than that, the girls did everything themselves. I am really proud of the work they did, and the party was lovely.
As I thought about what to share regarding this event, aside from the cute outcome, I want to shed some light on the process of saying yes to your child’s hosting requests. I believe it is beneficial to create space for them to learn by doing and to follow their imagination, but it is equally important as the adult to recognize the reality of a situation. You need to be realistic about your child’s skill level when it comes to planning, preparing for, and hosting an event.
Norah, for example, has been baking independently for at least five years, and she has lived her life with me which is to say, she has watched me host many gatherings. By osmosis she understands a lot of what is involved in throwing a party, and I trusted that she held an understanding of what an elaborately-themed tea party would require.
That being said, she is fifteen, and even with a well-designed plan, I knew to anticipate hiccups because don’t we all encounter them every time we host? Of course we do! My role as the adult was to step in and intervene in her process only when I could tell things were about to take an irreversible turn for the worse, or to encourage her towards the next right thing if it seemed she was missing something obvious. I also jumped in and did multiple rounds of dishes for her, knowing this is something often overlooked in a hosting timeline and can prove to be the best way to help a busy host. Even though she requested for me to be hands off, which I did until invited in, I knew I needed to be on call and available. I knew that in the best case scenario I would sit around and do nothing. But I also knew a more likely scenario was I would be called on to help in some areas.
If she had been younger or if she had no kitchen experience, we would have purchased food instead of making it from scratch, and we would have simplified everything. Instead, Norah and Liz made petite fours, tea sandwiches, all of which were very involved. They both really wanted to do it all from scratch (the apple does not fall far from the tree), and she learned a lot from the process. Namely, she said she would never make petite fours from scratch again. Notes for next time are always an important part of the learning process.
The event was super cute and well done. Her friends had a ball. The girls did an excellent job executing their plan and coming up with adorable details. The party was a success, and I was very proud of both of them. The attention to detail was incredible, the finished table was a delight.
More importantly, I learned that saying yes is worth it. I got to see Norah step into some of her natural talents and serve her friends, and she got to watch me step into the role of washing dishes and keeping my mouth shut, per her request. I smiled and encouraged her the whole way, offering gentle suggestions from time to time, but mostly remembering that the best way to learn is in an environment where mistakes are allowed, support is only a step away, and the focus is on creating space for others, regardless of whether or not everything turns out perfectly.