If January is a month when social lives take a short break, then my kids didn’t get the memo. With a record tally of eight parties last month, including two double-bubble days, it has been a hardcore month of partying hard.
It’s a cliche parenting statement; “My kids have a better social life than me”, but seriously, when did I become the taxi driver of not one, but two tiny socialites?
THE BIG EVENT
With a five year old and two year old, clearly we are barely novices to the kids party circuit, but we have seen our fair share and it’s safe to say we know the ropes.
The hall party spectacular. The cream of the crop, often involving a kids party entertainer, a fabulous buffet or individually prepared boxes (probably fairly healthy), some spectacular party bags / sweetie cones / gifts (or a combination of the former). Beautifully behaved kids and if you’re really lucky a bar and grub for the grown ups. The elite of parties with an almost wedding reception feel to it, except in the place of a bride or groom will be a full grown adult dressed as Elsa / Spiderman.
The hall party standard. Similar to the above but a little less structured. Often including a bouncy castle and some soft play stuff. The kids will go wild for this shizzle but expect a few tears and banged heads. The buffet selection will be a variety of kids food straight from the 80s and you’ll probably have to still cook dinner when you get home knowing all your kid ate was cheesey puffs washed down with fruit shoots.
The soft play party. A popular choice for its low maintenance parental input. Rock up, drink dodgy coffee, listen out for the sound of your child crying in the distance. Sweaty kids and chicken nuggets will be the order of the day, but they’ll definitely sleep well tonight.
Bowling / cinema / [insert other activity here] party. Ooh this has been a new experience since starting school. The dawn of the activity party – often combined with a happy meal or pizza hut tea. These parties don’t come cheap so if your names on the list, congratulations for making the painstakingly awkward cut.
The house party. Otherwise known as ‘ARE YOU MAD PARENTS?’. Unsurprisingly a rarity in this modern day, as your Mum will like to point out regularly. Maybe kids of the 80’s weren’t as crazy, although I doubt it very much given all the blue smarties and Um Bongo. If you’re considering this approach I’d seriously limit it to about 6 kids, unless you have a summer birthday, a massive garden, a mansion and a cleaner.
The garden party. A distant memory in the tail end of this bleak winter. If you have a summer party you can create a garden extravaganza, with happy kids and happy parents, well oiled thanks to that jug of Pimms. The reality, sadly all too often is the parents in the kitchen, drinking tea chatting over the monsoon that ‘definitely wasn’ forecasted’, while the kids trash the house.
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?
Given our current age bracket of 4-5, this is a topic of conversation that has cropped up loads lately. It seems we are a divided bunch…would you leave a four year old at a party? I have to say, for me, it’s got to be a no for now. That’s just a step too far when it comes to passing over responsibility of our child to people we just met, in a public place with 11 other kids. So that Mum skulking around in the cafe overlooking the bowling lanes…hi, that’s me.
TEAM MUM, TEAM DAD, TAG TEAM OR A TEAM EVENT?
This has, of late, been a bone of contention in our home. When it comes to a weekend party, does Mum take kids, Dad take kids, or do we all go?
I have to say, I’ve come to see kids parties as a bit of a social event for me, so I don’t really mind taking the girls. I genuinely really enjoy catching up with the parents I’ve made friends with over the last five years. That said, there is a certain amount of free-time-envy going on if Dad gets to stay at home, and these things can be pretty migraine inducing at times. We tend to play it by ear – he comes if I know (think) there might be some Dads he knows there, or if we just haven’t spent that much quality time together. This is one up for debate, and I know there are some Dads to whom kids parties are plain no go areas.
THE SIBLING CONUNDRUM
As we are now well into the second tier of Superkids, the parties have somewhat doubled up with a dozen or so sibling hi-jackers. It’s sometimes unclear who is invited, you don’t want to make a wrong assumption as it’s understandably pricey and chaotic to include a mixed aged group. Just make sure you subtly get clarity on who the party is for before heading off with two party frocked princesses / spidermen.
THE GUEST LIST
I’m pretty surprised just how many kids from school have thrown #whole class’ parties. It’s for sure going to avoid any upset caused by little Billy picking his five best friends (now that is some pressure for a thirty four year old let alone a four year old), but jeez that’s going to be one big party. Do you suddenly cull the baby group crowd, the ones who have taken pride of place at every previous birthday and been those first and precious friends in the tough early days of parenthood? And what about all the cousins, and your friends’ kids? Time to get tough or things are going to get out of hand..it’s like the awkward wedding guest list all over again, except it’s every year.
If you find your name not on any list, and therefore not coming in, that can be tough for loads of reasons. Upset kids, angry parents, awkward playground moments. My advice is to celebrate a party free weekend and focus on your family, your friends. Make your own fun and let it go, like a helium balloon on the way to the car (with less tears).
BRINGING HOME THE DOUBLE
At any given party you can spot the parent eagerly gathering up coats and shoes five minutes before the end to dash off to the next party. Usually a 30 minute drive from home in the opposite direction and may involve a quick outfit change from party dress to soft play casual wear. The kids will think this is Christmas day all over again…I just hope you popped a bottle of wine on ice before leaving…
So there we go, with a fifth birthday party on the very near horizon it’s time for us to get planning our own extravaganza…or one friend over for tea.