This weekend I attended a children’s party with my seven year-old. I was very much looking forward to the occasion as it gave me reason to leave behind my three year-old with Granma. Which also left behind excessive time straining on the potty, ‘The Lion King’ being played on a loop and enthusiastic kisses you could lose a tooth to. I’d managed to secure a sterling high pony and applied bright lipstick to the seven-year old therefore it was smiles all round as we headed off; gift in hand to the venue.
This was a typical children’s party, village hall; tables laid up with cheap, processed food tossed onto paper plates atop plastic cloths in readiness for scooping up two hours later directly into a bin bag. We arrive early but a giddy excitement is already in the air as the girl’s appraise each other’s outfits and began that ‘bouncy’, vaguely out-of-breath thing they do when the thrill of anticipation hits. Nervous glances at the doorway; I know mine in particular is waiting for the boys to arrive. God knows why; they nearly always stumble through the door; looking like they’ve just been dragged down from a tea, had their hair licked down by Mum and a present shoved in their hands. Certainly showing no interest whatsoever in the girls who’ve been primping and preening for an hour before kick-off. Still no matter everyone’s here and it’s time for the ‘entertainment’.
What is it with parties these days? Years ago your Mum made one thousand egg sandwiches and a chocolate sponge smothered in melted chocolate with ‘Smarties’ pressed into the top and Dad moved the big furniture to one-side of the room. Everyone gathered together wearing their one and only long dress and played ‘party games’. There was no outside help, you didn’t pay for someone to keep the kids amused, no it all hinged on adult-organised games all involving the starting and stopping of music. Musical ‘bumps’, ‘statues’ or ‘chairs’ and everyone’s favourite ‘pass the parcel’ when one lucky sod would get the gift from the centre; probably a ‘Club’ biscuit and every kid would be left with black hands from ripping off the newspaper.
At this point egg sandwiches; now grey from filthy paws are doled out and eaten sitting crossed-legged on the floor whilst plastic cups of ‘squash’ are handed out. Next it’s the cake, sing ‘happy birthday’ eat a slice then bugger off home. Then it’s all over and it’s upstairs to bed for you. Mum would then spend three hours swearing whilst using a fish knife to remove lumps of squashed-in egg from the carpet, whilst Dad sipped cheap lager watching the wrestling on telly.
Now it’s all so complex; with so many decisions to be made and all costing an inordinate amount of money. Bloody stupid in my opinion; pamper parties for the girls, go-karting for the boys and don’t get me started on the ‘party bags’. Whose bloody idea was it that each child who you’ve invariably fed, watered and entertained should also receive a present themselves? It’s not their birthday! Let them realise it’s not always about THEM! It’s like relatives who also buy ‘a little something’ for the little one. Again NO; it’s not their turn let them learn the harsh realities of life early! So you see this ‘no frills’ but very lovely little party was rather refreshing; until I saw the ‘entertainment’.
I know from bitter experience just how hard it is to keep a room-full of kids from sliding into destructive boredom especially when high on e-numbers and the heady scent of their combined sweat; yep it’s a real task. We had a similar party three years ago and I seriously thought I had it all covered. A budget party with lots of helpers, a couple of ‘Now That’s What I call Music’ CD’s, face paints and fake tattoos…it’s only two hours how hard can it be?
Well let me tell you it was the slowest two hours of my life; we’d exhausted all pre-planned activities within thirty minutes, the food was hovered up in ten and I was edgy and purple in the face after the first hour. Kids are so bloody demanding these days; nose in the air surveying the hall and asking ‘is there an ‘animal’ man/magician/Little Mix tribute act coming? With no choice we battled through the last hour with the boys resorting to sliding on their knees and the girls reverting to type i.e. sitting around nibbling leftovers and bitching about each other. To add to my stress there was the further humiliation of the parents who’d arrived early and were now ‘judging me’ from the plastic seat their ass was glued to. Clearly they were enjoying the ‘entertainment’ predominantly me; mentally unravelling and drinking ‘alcohol’ purchased in a moment of madness from the pub opposite.
The flushing on my face had by then extended to my chest and with my hair glued around my face I began ‘fannying’ around with the party bags. Casting an overly critical eye into the paltry, plastic contents and rueing my decision to add a generic brand fun-size chocolate bar. At this point the single most ridiculous decision of my entire life; why the fucking hell didn’t I spend the extra pound on something ‘Cadburys’? Thankfully it was less than ten minutes later and we were finally all alone in a scene reminiscent of The Blitz. At this point the tap of adrenalin was shut off and I was left feeling slightly tearful yet relieved it was over and that nobody had died.
On this occasion the parent in question had been sensible enough to book a local magic act who for the sake of this blog I’ll call ‘Tragic Nev’. It was my third experience of this seasoned professional but the first time I was aware that I could practically recite word-for-word his act which didn’t make for exciting viewing. Tragic Nev loves to whip his audience into a screaming frenzy; he also insists that parents participate i.e. sit in the audience, clap and indulge his adult references with a wry smile and an eye roll. As I held one side of the ‘washing line’ of tied together modelling balloons for the masses of sweaty kids to peg socks onto I reflected on my naïve decision to stay. I’d have had more peace if I’d have sat in the car and sucked my way through a box of Maltesers. Grazing the cheap buffet helped to lift my spirits as did catching up with all the other Mum’s aka ‘SUCKER’S’ who also made the ridiculous decision to stay.
It’s nearly April and around the time I’ll have to dip into the party zone once more and on that occasion will definitely have to stay as it’s my bloody child. I’m now considering purchasing a brightly coloured suit and a pack of modelling balloons. I’ll call myself ‘Bag of Wind’; pretend to flick myself in the nipple several times, release a partially blown-up balloon into the air and allow it to slowly deflate whilst it makes a funny noise then give the kids inflatable swords to bash each other with until their parents arrive. I’ll find it much easier to brazen out the ‘no party-bag’ shocker at the end whilst wearing a shit suit and rolling my eyes…