Friday, 7 September 2012

Retro Repost: Children's Party Hell

Having had a very busy Friday, and having used up all my organisational skills this week trying to keep up my new school years resolutions I of course have not been organised enough to write a new blog for today. 

Screaming at me from the top of my ever-expanding-at-this-time-of-year to do list for the last few weeks has been to organise The Son's birthday party (I am doing a joint one this year, why put myself through the trauma twice when their birthdays are quite close together?).  So on that note, I decided rather than to leave you lacking a Friday blog, I would repost this one I wrote about a year ago (with a few revisions!)...

Most parents dread kids parties, whether planning one: what if it’s not good enough? What if child hates it? What if child says he wants a pirate party but then 24 hours before the party decides he wants a fireman party instead? Or attending: what if my child won’t play? What if they are rude about the food or entertainment? What if they won’t even go through the door – I have spent many hours in village hall car parks coaxing son number 1 into a party he refuses to take part in because there are balloons, an unfortunate phobia for a 3 year old. Thankfully we’re over that one.

Children’s parties are far more stressful than you would think pre-parenthood, on son number 1’s first birthday party we had 12 kids all with their parents (we served beer and wine to the parents to help them get through it – that was a controversial choice, possibly the rookie mistake of a first time mum) squished into our tiny flat, and I was so relieved that it was finally happening and going well that I drunk half a bottle of wine in an hour and was intoxicated and asleep before everyone left.

But I realise I have created my own party monster. Son number 2 was due a month before son number 1’s birthday. Heavily pregnant and needing a project, I threw myself into planning the ultimate pirate party for son number 1’s third birthday. The Dad, as the appointed MC, spent a week making a pirate costume to wear and I made a little pirate pack for every guest including sash, eye patch and bandana, with the pirate captains hat for son 1. Even son number 2, only a month old, wore a stripy sleepsuit and a little eye patch. It took a huge amount of planning, and was meant to be a one off. Make son number one feel loved and special while dealing with the transition from only child to big brother. But of course the following year he wanted a Buzz Lightyear party. I’d made the mistake of setting the bar too high. The Dad got his costume making hat on again and we arrived at the party as family Buzz, the kids in supermarket Buzz costumes, us parents in slightly too tight white jogging bottoms and home made wings. I was terrified The Dad would take some poor kids eye out with his wings, fashioned out of motorcross body armour and a car undertray (mine were far more child friendly, made out of carpet tiles).

And then there’s the cake. For at least 24hours before every party I am stuck in my kitchen, sweating and stressed, coughing under plumes of icing sugar. For son number 2's second birthday I did Lightning McQueen. But I’ll let you in on a secret, neither of my kids even like cake. I do it because I love the artistic side of it, and the pleasure I get when people say, wow what an amazing cake! It’s all self indulgence.

Sometimes I wish I had just started with a nice simple soft play centre party and a supermarket cake. Minimal planning, no ridiculous costumes, no panicking because Lightning McQueen looks slightly boss eyed. Just show up, pick up the presents and go home. The kids don’t even mind. They always have a brilliant time at soft play parties. But when our parties are over and we can all relax at last and son number 1 says “Mummy, that was the best party ever in the world” I know I’ll be doing it all again next year.

The Dad says he doesn’t enjoy the big parties so much, it’s all too stressful. You could have fooled me when he’s up til 2am the night before making pirate boots out of an old PVC skirt he’s bought from the charity shop. He says he would rather just play on the soft play with the kids and he really doesn’t care whether the cake is homemade or not (which is a shame because he’s kind of the only person who actually eats the cake).

Every year I say I will just do a MacDonalds or soft play party. Easy and simple. But before I got the chance to suggest it to him he says “Mummy, I want a Lego City/ Star Wars/ Spongebob party this year.” And now Son Two is old enough to pipe up with "and I want Peppa Pig party". Yep, I’ve definitely set the bar too high. 

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