Talk to me, if you will, about children’s parties, because I am utterly lost.
Back in my day a party was a few of your friends coming round to your house to play musical statues and maybe do a bit of dancing to Jive Bunny with the disco lights that one parent in the village had invested in but everyone else borrowed. When you got a bit older a party might involve a sleepover and a video (I lived in fear of being the first to sleep and thus waking up fully adorned with Fruits of the Loom lipstick), a round of bowling (when the ultimate achievement was to get ‘Happy Birthday’ to flash across the points screen) or those amazing McDonalds parties where you’d all get a tour of the kitchen and eat a Happy Meal while sitting in a plastic boat next to a creepy full size model of Ronald McDonald, and then go home all squeezed into 1 car with no seat belts on waving to everyone out the back window. Oh, 1980s, you have a lot to answer for…!
But these days it’s alllll different. The presh is most definitely on and parties have become prime fodder for ‘Competitive Parenting’. I hear of kids being taken to Build-a-Bear workshop, for 3 course meals at Pizza Express or booking beauticians to do manicures and makeovers. Even the more ‘regular’ parties we’ve been invited to recently have included hip hop lessons, football coaching and a takeover at a soft play (all, I hasten to add, great fun). I’ve heard people saying “did you know it’s only £200 plus food to hire the back of this cafe for 2 hours”. Wow. Kids’ parties, it seems, are a serious business.
The etiquette does’t help. From what I can make out (and this is a steep learning curve that you can’t buy a manual for) you can either invite all of nursery, or nobody. You can’t put invitations on selected pegs only, and quite right too – little kids being left out is a heartbreaking concept. But this makes it tricky. Do you go small but then feel the need to do something more exclusive so as (GOD FORBID) not to appear mean, or do something more ‘basic’ but invite everyone. Either way, it looks like if you enter this game you need to prepared to part with some serious cash.
And what about food? Gone are the days of pineapple-sticks and party rings – these days I’m sure the most committed parents are offering a selection of organic, raw, vegan food all foraged within 100m of the chosen venue. Possibly served by waiting-on staff. It’s apparently pretty normal to spend £100 to get a professional cake made. I’ve heard of party bags, once made up of a box of smarties, a piece of cake and a balloon, now including actual presents, books and even a gift token…
Aaaaaanyway, with the toddler’s 3rd birthday imminent, we decided to shun all this nonsense. ‘Let’s not spend hundreds of pounds’ we smirked, ‘he’s only 3 and doesn’t really understand it all yet… let’s just get our friends round for a big garden party – MUCH easier’.
So far, so sensible. Except then we started to be invited to all the other 3rd birthdays (sidenote: a downside of ante-natal classes mean you go through an intense few weeks of ALL the birthday parties at once) – there’s going to be bouncy castles, clowns, face painters. Suddenly I started to panic that my £5 bubble machine *might* not cut it.
And so i made a major error.
I typed “kids parties” into Pinterest.
Oh. Dear. Lord.
Fast forward 1 week: The Sainsbury’s delivery has just come. My husband has just gone through the haul picking each item out one by one and staring at me with a large, incredulous ‘WHAT?’ scrawled across his face (it’s a face he does a lot)…
“That’s the liquorice wheels for my cake-bar cars”
“Those are to hold together my crudite train”
“Those are for my watermelon lollipops”
He gently suggested i’d lost it. I fear he might be right.
We’ve bought fresh sand for the sand-pit, spring-cleaned the wendy house, purchased a new paddling pool and a huge water slide for the garden (it’s 10 degrees today so let’s hope they’re returnable). I’ve printed monthly-from-birth photos, and bought him an apparently obligatory ‘3’ t-shirt, because instagram told me to. We’ve got a very healthy booze-to-adult ratio (hey – we’re celebrating surviving 3 years of parenthood too). My husband is making a playlist. And then there was the trip to Ikea yesterday to buy lanterns and fairy lights. “Organising a wedding?” asked the friendly checkout assistant… “no, a 3rd birthday party” I replied.
So, it seems I’ve been sucked in. Good and proper. I’m currently sitting looking at my colour co-ordinated plates, napkins and lanterns making a list of the vast amounts of icing art I am required to do tonight. I’m excited! And I know the toddler will love it too – mainly because the excessive shop also included Pom Bears and Fruit Shoots – the real route to a toddler’s heart, not any of this other nonsense above.
It’s not all cray cray though – there are no party bags (I bought extra prosecco instead) and I’m baking the cake myself… at least I’m planning on it. There’s a decent chance that Colin the Caterpillar will come to the rescue tomorrow morning…
I’ll let you know how it goes. I commit to posting a photo of my crudite train (it promises to be a treat). I’ll hopefully also post a photo of a very happy little birthday boy (and might even get one of my husband where his eyes aren’t rolling).
And I can almost certainly guarantee that this time next year we’ll be paying the council through the nose to rent a corner of soft play so we can all run around and eat sweaty sandwiches in super-hero outfits in order to save ourselves time, stress, and money.
But I’ll ensure it’s all co-ordinated, obvs.