Last Saturday, we were lucky enough to be invited to a three year old’s birthday party. His parents said that when they asked him what he wanted for his birthday, all he wanted was a party with a piñata. Woo hoo, you think, a wild party for a three year old. We didn’t even know how much fun it would be.
His parents didn’t really want the piñata party because they said the piñatas make the kids violent and greedy. But Tom and I thought it would be fun, so we went with Melvor’s parents, who decided a small piñata would be okay, the day before the party to pick out a piñata and the candy to put in it. We then took the piñata home, filled it, and planned to show up at Melvor’s house for the party on Saturday night. The piñata was a little red person – supposed to be Elmo maybe? – and his parents told him that we were going to be picking up a friend for Melvor and bringing him to the party. When we pulled in the driveway and opened the car door, Melvor came running out of the house to see who was with us, and we handed him the piñata, which was almost as big as he is. Melvor’s face lit up, and he grabbed the piñata in his arms and ran for the house to show his family.
His dad put a string up across an empty part of the dining room, and hung the piñata by the wire from its head. Melvor wasn’t quite sure why his piñata had been taken from him and hung by its head, but then his older brothers and sister started whispering to him that the piñata was filled with candy, and if Melvor hit it with a stick and broke it, the candy would come out and they could all eat it. Melvor was appalled! He started yelling “I don’t want to, I don’t want to!” and demanded that the piñata be removed from the string. He then carried it around, wrapped it in a blanket, put it to bed, and generally showed the nurturing side of his delightful personality.
The older siblings weren’t going to stand for that. They took the piñata from him and made him feel the candy through the skin. They somehow managed to get a hole poked in its back so they could get some of the candy out so Melvor could see that his new friend really was filled with candy. They finally convinced him that it was okay to hang the piñata by its head and hit it with a stick, but after a couple of good whacks, Melvor again erupted into tears, yelled “I don’t want to,” and demanded that the piñata be taken down and put to bed. Tom made the piñata walk and got Melvor to kick it a few times, but then that was too stressful and the piñata, and the rest of us, retired for the night.
We don’t know what happened overnight, but we stopped by the next day – and found Melvor gleefully beating the piñata with a stick as it hung from its head on the string. Candy was flying everywhere, the older siblings were sliding in on the floor to get the candy and trying to avoid being beaten by Melvor who at that point was willing to beat just about anything or anybody, just for the fun of it. The piñata was in shreds, and by the time we left the head was disconnected from the body and both legs were off – and most of the candy had been pocketed by Melvor’s older brothers and sister.
We found the whole thing fascinating, watching the transition from the cute little kid who wanted to protect his new friend, to the bloodthirsty little candy monster having fun beating the piñata just for the sake of beating it. Melvor’s parents were right – the piñata did bring out the violent and greedy side of the child, but it also brought out his sweet and nurturing side. Since we don’t have kids, we’ve always gotten a kick out of watching our dogs interact and studying their behavior, but after watching this, we think it’s just as much fun to study kids’ behavior!