Party 101

Having two offspring at school/preschool has created an issue I hadn’t previously considered. We are now inundated with party invites. Every. Single. Week. Where weekends used to be an opportunity for us to spend days out together as a family; they are an opportunity for the Spouse & I to battle out which one of us will be forced to endure the torment this time. His inability to lactate has, thus far, given me an unfair advantage in this war; but it’s only a matter of time before I’m forced to take on an equal share…

Here are some things I’ve learnt about kid’s parties so far:

1. There seems to be no explicit etiquette on whether or not you’re supposed to stay with your kids. Some parents (veterans of the party game, most likely) do the “dump & run”, whilst others loiter on the periphery, wondering if it’d be acceptable to slope off and crawl back into bed for 90 minutes. Others, like me, settle in for the long haul, sighing sadly into their coffee. There really ought to be a section on party invites that denotes what’s expected of us. As a party host, are you happy to watch 15 kids by yourself for two hours? Or do you want their parents to maintain responsibility? The first option will win you parent points, for sure. But the second will win you the chance to cling to a modicum of your sanity.

2. Kids are incredibly inept at feigning gratitude. If you accidentally gift them something they already have (if you avoid anything with Paw Patrol on it, you should be safe) then be prepared for them to fling it callously aside and announce “I already have this!” in an exasperated manner. I’ve tried to teach my kids the art of the happy gasp: “Socks?!” *gasp*; “A blender?!” *gasp*. You get the idea. It’s the “I’m so shocked and thrilled with this incredibly inane gift that you’ve clearly just grabbed from the reduced shelf at the petrol station” gasp. But no matter how many times you rehearse it, what happens instead is a completely undisguised look of disappointment and a speedy rejection of the offending item, whilst the parent is left to distract the gift giver with effusive compliments on the exceptional standard of their wrapping paper choices.

3. If the party is for your kid, do not forget that thank you cards are expected. Personally, I’ve never been a big one for thank you cards, or Christmas cards, or any kind of cards for that matter. It’s effort. And also it’s killing trees. But mostly it’s effort. I tend to offer an exuberant “thanks so much!” anytime someone hands over a present. Frankly, I reckon that should be enough? But no, apparently we’re supposed to remember (during the absolute carnage that is present unwrapping) what gift came from which person and then thank them for it in writing, on some pretty card, in your neatest penmanship. (You should also scribble on it a bit to make it look like your child actually gave a shite and tried to sign it). Because that’s what we did in the good old days and because if you’re the only parent who doesn’t bother, you’ll be shunned in the playground, you ungrateful wench.

4. 95% of kid’s parties take place in soft play centres. 95% of adults hate soft play centres. Why do we do it to each other? Why aren’t we hosting kid’s parties in bars? Feckless fools.

5. You can’t turn down invites. When every child in the class is invited, you have to attend. Even if it means missing your Granny’s 90th. Even if it means hopping on a quick flight back from your cruise in the Med. Even if it means relinquishing that lie-in you’ve been looking forward to since 2012. No sacrifice is too great, when the alternative is facing the wrath of your child once they realise that they’re the only one in their class who didn’t attend (and subsequently missed out on receiving a miniature carrier bag, which inevitably contained a small plastic whistle, a tiny tiny notebook, a withered balloon and a slice of squashed cake wrapped in a napkin).

Here’s what we got up to for R’s birthday, last week:

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