Last weekend was very special and not just because I played Kate Bush songs for 24 hours non-stop. All four of my parties were for children I had entertained before. Well, to be specific three were for children I had entertained before and one was for a girl whose two older sisters had previously had a Mr Banana Head party. I’m always flattered when parents choose me for their children’s special day over all the other options available. When it’s the child that requests me it’s even more flattering. When they have had a Mr Banana Head party and then want another one it’s the ultimate flattered scenario.
For me, being Mr Banana Head has never been about simply turning up and entertaining the children. Firstly it’s about developing a relationship with the birthday boy / girl. I always ask on my booking form what kind of approach they would feel comfortable with at the start. Not that I’m a loud or shouty entertainer but sometimes I might need to be extra gentle of quiet in the beginning. Parents have told me how their children can be very shy / wary around adults, people they don’t know or sometimes everyone.
I always arrive 45 mins before the party. This is partly to set up but mainly it’s to spend time getting to know the birthday child. Sometimes I’ll walk in and they will be hiding behind their mum or dad. When this happens I just give a gentle wave hello and start setting up. When I feel they’re a bit more relaxed and open I might say hello and go over to them. We talk about the party and normally within a few minutes they feel much more comfortable and at ease.
Sometimes I’ll walk in and they’ll be immediately in my face, all excited and very loud. In this situation I might need to get them to calm down a bit before they explode with excitement. Not always easy! This time before the party is the most important for me. I want them to feel totally relaxed and comfortable on their special day. If, on the very rare occasion that means they don’t want to come up and help then that’s fine. For some children, the thought of being up in front of everyone can be terrifying.
What often happens is that within a few minutes we’re chatting away like old friends. Discussing Star Wars, Paw Patrol and everyone in My Little Pony. It means that when the party actually starts, they feel totally at ease. They’ll often bring their friends over when they arrive to introduce them to me. I love that so much.
I’ve said it before but there’s not much better than having a child who was initially very shy, conquer their fears and come up and help. When this is the birthday child it just means so much to me. On the booking form parents will often say things like, “They can be very shy and it’s unlikely they’ll come up and help, please don’t be offended!” To see that child not only find the courage to come up but to be confident and laughing out loud is really moving. Often the parents will be so emotional afterwards saying they couldn’t believe their child not only came up to help but that they were so confident. I totally understand that. Jade was painfully shy when she was younger and always sat on our laps at parties. If she’d got up to help on stage I think I would have burst out crying. In a good way of course!
When they have me again like last weekend’s parties they’re much more familiar with me and greet me like a mate. Chatting away and joking straight away, clearly feeling comfortable. Seeing the parents again is lovely too, they’re so welcoming and on occasions I feel like one of the family whilst I’m there. I’m very fortunate to have parents say nice things about me most of the time. The one thing that comes up a lot and that makes me feel so proud is that the connection I have the children is really special. Not the just the birthday child but all the children there. Maybe that’s one reason they want me for their party. It definitely can’t be for the average magic and horrific dancing skills I display!
As I said at the beginning, being Mr Banana Head has never been about simply turning up and entertaining the children. I hope this has given you a bit of an insight into what it is about for me.
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