Sunday, September 07, 2008

Party politics

Birthday party season has well and truly landed. Since most of the spuds friends are children whom we met at various baby classes, antenatal classes and various other activities involving children calculated to be within a few months of his age, it is therefore unsurprising that they are all turning two around the same time.

This raises several problems in our little toddler world, questions surrounding birthday party presents; birthday party clothes; birthday party manners and dealing with birthday party sugar rushes. All these however pale into the paintwork when stood beside the big one... birthday party competitions.

I'm not talking the sort of competition where small children race giggling around a row of kitchen chairs. No, I'm talking about the unspoken competition between Mums which surrounds all aspects of Putting On A Birthday Party. Who bakes the best cake? Who lays on the best spread? Who has the nicest house? Who gives out the nicest party bags? Who, in other words, is the Best Mum. And, if you think I'm joking here, you are clearly Not A Parent.

We decided very early on in the stakes to opt out of all this madness by holding the spud's birthday in the park every year however at only the second go at this strategy we were rained right into our house... a house, I may add, which is in fact only a small apartment, which was not prepped with balloons or streamers or long tables laden with party food. Not that there's room in our place for a long table laden with party food but... well, you get my drift. We also opted not to go for any party bags - or at least, not until the spud is at an age where his friends will be expecting one. The result was that we had a sort of one-cheeked affair. Yes, there was cake and mmm... there was sort-of some nibbly bits and mmm... well we had the marquee up in the garden and... mostly, there was mud and chaos and over-excited children with nowhere to run. And beer, because the Frog and the Daddy of the spud's co-birthday party boy decided that there was Not Enough Beer and rather than purchase chocolates or fairy cakes or any sort of useful birthday party extras when they realised the whole shebang would be at our place, they just went out and bought so much beer that the jelly had to be exiled out onto the counter to go all limp before everyone arrived.

The problem is that now we have been to several other parties, it is clear that we have badly let down our little spud. Party bags are a must, even though parents stand around openly discussing that they simply eat all the treats from the bags themselves and only let their little darlings play with the kinder toys and the bouncy balls AFTER the danger of chocolate has been removed. Fairy cakes are also a must and even at two, games and entertainment should abound - toys, balls, a play table... Chairs, chairs come into it as well, apparently one should have enough chairs in the house. And table cloths, I've seen some good use of table cloths. And the Mum should look as though she's made at least some sort of effort in the face department.

At least we managed to hype the kids up on sugar to the requisite levels, but I'm guessing that that's the easy part. I don't know. Next time I'll be off to Frog's place to order lovely party bags but if anyone has any ideas on how to wow 'em at a three-year old's party, kindly leave them here for me to rummage through for next year.


Anonymous said...

The day my children figure out that there is such a thing as a birthday party that involve more than a frozen lasagna, their local grandparents, and maybe their aunt I am SCREWED! I actually dread the day they get invited to another child's party for all of the reasons you listed.

We are currently navigating the waters of the preschool playdate . . . where are the books telling me how to handle that?!

Jen said...

I'm not really a party person, but when I do throw one, I usually go all out. We made a big deal about the first birthday. I'm not sure how involved it will be this year. I love to see what the other moms are doing and get ideas. I just bought a book with great ideas for party cakes.

Jonny's Mommy said...

OK. Having serious anxiety attack. I had been worried about all this birthday stuff, but then I had calmed down and JG really cares, right? Oh no, but I had forgotten that it is THE PARENTS who care what there is and isn't at a party.

OH serious crap, crap, crap.

And yes, the dangerous chocolate does have to be removed, especially if there is a lot in there. Just not good for the little ones. Much better for my ever-expanding thighs.

Samantha said...

I must admit that I am somewhat delighted to know that the Party Insanity Bug is not local to the US-of-A. It has become quite over-the-top in my neck of the woods as well and I have decided to be the rogue mommy and NOT DO birthday parties at all. At least - not this year.

All children will have a party NEXT year when we hit some sizable milestones (turning 10 and such) but that a party is simply not necessary each and every year.

I also REFUSE the whole goody-bag idea. It is crazy, and I do not know who invented this little tradition but we should hunt him down, lather him with tar and feathers, and give him a proper burial!

Michelle said...

I really try not to worry about what the other Mommys think. I just want the kids to have fun, and that's a trick in and of itself! And, I don't do "friend" parties until the fourth birthday, just family celebrations.

D-HOR said...

What's a fairy cake?

My parents and my friends parents never gave birthday parties for school friends. It was always a family affair. Usually just my parents and me but sometimes they'd invite some of our family. My mom would always bake a cake, they'd sing, I'd wish and we'd do presents.

I don't think I went to another kids birthday party till I was 12 or so, and then it was a girls sleep-over kind of thing.

Btw I'm not complaining here I'm just saying what it was like. Do you HAVE to have a party for all the neighborhood? Like could you just screw the "jones's" and have a "Charlie SPECIAL Day" and make it about him and his day and spending it with family?

Aw hell I am so no help at all I'm sorry. If you want to impress people I guess you should hire those people that do the sweet 16 parties on MTV, that should do quite nicely.

(ya know though, I can't blame you, I want to have parties for my unborn-not-yet-even-concieved kids, maybe because I didn't have any or maybe to fit in I don't know, but I'm betting in 5 years I'll be begging you for advice. Feel free to throw this lame comment back in my face :P )

Shannon said...

I'm betting that if you make it fun for your little man the other kids will have fun. By next year he will probably tell you what kind of party he wants (we've had frogs, Blues Clues, Dora and Diego at request). I figure I do the best that I can (which isn't saying much) do a lot of "home made" and take the pressure off the other mama's. They know right off the bat that their party will be better : ) Your mud and beer party will probably live longer in the memory than any overspent silliness.
What's a fairy cake?

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Have you discovered the likes of ball ponds, etc., at your local pub? Bouncy castles go down well, through 3 is a bit young. We've had children's entertainers (hiring church halls) ranging from magicians to clowns. We've spent loads of money on party bags that get thrown in the bin when they get home (if they make it home). I think the men got it right with the beer. Spud won't remember his second birthday or even his third most likely. Make it as enjoyable and stress-free as you can for as long as you can.

Tara@From Dawn Till Rusk said...

I have learned from 5 years of party throwing that all young children want from a party is to run around with their friends and have something to take home at the end of it.
They enjoy a clown/bouncy castle/entertainer etc but they wouldn't miss it if it wasn't there.
We've just had my daughter's 3rd birthday party at home (a little tea party) and it was great. I planned the games, not much food because they're not that bothered about it, and party bags which consisted of fun pencils, notepads, bangle for the girls, tattoo for the boys and a couple of small bars of chocolate. You absolutely cannot get away with not giving out something at the end of the day - the disappointment etched into those little eyes stays with you for a long long time!

Lindy said...

OH ! One more thing, could you always get him those party favor things that you blow into and the little paper tube flips out from a circle to strait and it makes that party-favor-noise???

Cuz I always loved those and wanted to play with them.

You must have them for him, screw the adults, focus on that baby.

(lindy, dhor)

DJ Kirkby said...

Sorry, can't help, it just gets worse as they get older...I am now frantically trying to create an amazing Halloween party and then getting ready for his 6th birthday party. Oh, there is an award for you over at mine.

Jan Jones said...

Landed here via the Black Box. My firstborn is now 22, but boy do I remember that tiny male member shock.

As for birthday parties - lay the table-cloth on the floor and have a picnic. It's a winner every time.

And for a show-stopper, do what I did on the first birthday party I held for my son. I set fire to my hair with the cake candles. To a collected gasp of admiration from the kids, I just batted out the flames and carried on singing Happy Birthday. Honestly, by that time having my hair on fire felt perfectly natural.

Sparx said...

Ack! I responded to most of the comments but it doesn't seem to have saved - thank you for the kind words and hints everyone, bless you for coming by!