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Darwin’s Playground

Attended a baptism party recently. On the surface, one would guess such a gathering would be a low key family event. Little did I suspect the combination of an empty dance floor, balloons, eight or so kids ranging in age from 2 to 10 and a copious amount of sweets could erupt into a cage match of epic proportions.

It started innocently enough. The kids were at the tables and one by one they got a hold of balloons. They began to run around chasing one another. Soon one little tyke decided it would be good fun to swat another child over the head with a balloon. The idea caught on quickly and soon it was “thwap” “thwap” “thwap” everywhere you looked. The parents glanced over and dismissed the exchanges as nothing more than good old fashioned child’s play. Big mistake.

The expression on the children’s faces morphed from angelic to manic almost instantaneously; their precious laughter changing to shrieks and howls. They were not engaged in play but instead a miniature mortal combat. Remarkably, most parents did not bat an eye. I thought to myself, “am I am the only one witnessing this?” I rationalized I was overreacting. Then it happened. The children joined ranks like a pack of jackals and chased after the oldest child. With a single bloodthirsty purpose they relentlessly pursued their prey all the while cackling as one. The boy tried in earnest to elude his adversaries by taking evasive actions much like a gazelle fleeing from a lion but he ran out of room and was cornered. The balloon beating commenced. A crescendo of shrieking, “thwapping”, and crazed laughter enveloped the room. Then silence. Each child dispersed one by one. The victim, a 10 year old boy, dusted his assaulted self off and returned to his table. This disheveled lad, as though his memory had been erased, proceeded to nonchalantly eat cake. I sat stunned in my chair. “What was that?” I muttered softly. I felt a hand placed on my shoulder. It was one of the fathers of the children. He smiled knowingly and said, “First kids party huh? Have some cake.” And I did.