Around the first week in January, I’ll meet up with my super organised mum friend and she’ll always ask me the same question. It’s a question that fills me with panic, dread and guilt in equal measure. She asks; ‘So, what are you planning for Harriet’s birthday this year?’
my answer is usually vague and evasive as:
- I haven’t even considered Harriets birthday party….and…
- I have no intentions of even starting to think about it until at least May.
Harriet’s birthday is at the end of July and has always been a terribly elaborate affair. To be honest, I set the bar too high very early on and now have sleepless nights over how to make the events compare to last one.
In the past we’ve had play centres, bouncy castles, face painters and even bloody ponies…The outdoor pony party was the year it completely pissed it down obviously.
Contrary to the above we are not made of money and this year worried me a tad as Harry had started school. That meant she had sixty children in her year, plus all the other friends she’s made from various hobbies and social gatherings.
When I first started mooting the idea of this years party (like I said, in May, like a sane person) I questioned if I should invite sixty plus kids and have a free for all in the local leisure centre. I quickly decided not to invite sixty plus kids, as this would be heresy and to be honest, I struggle with more than one child at a time let alone a tribe.
To save my sanity my mother in law ‘helpfully’ suggested I had a smaller party in my own home. I’m surprised that this suggestion didn’t make me spit out my tea. Even the thought of entertaining fifteen five year olds at home makes me shudder. I’ve got a lovely home and secretly I don’t even like most peoples kids that much.
It was decided that we would host the party at the Acacia Centre again. I’ve had three parties there already due to the fact it is familiar and I am exceptionally lazy (I’m there twice a week anyway for Harriet’s Gymnastics lessons). I’d invite Harriets class and some other friends, equalling around 35 children. I would then cross my fingers that at least a quarter of those would have other plans and take the number down to around 25.
When booking the party I did realise that people do indeed book stuff ridiculously early as a couple of the slots I would have preferred had gone. Booking a child’s party at a suitable establishment is indeed akin to getting in to a Heston Blumenthall eatery. You try getting a plum spot at Jimmy Beans. If you’re not booking that at least six months in advance you have no chance.
Then there is the buying of party wares. Plates, cups, balloons, invites. All bought with a tinge of sadness knowing they are going to be used for exactly twenty seconds before being thrown into a rubbish bag.
One thing I do refuse to buy are party bags. I dislike party bags enormously. The stress of having to fill thirty shitty bags with tiny plastic crap, lollipops and mini Haribo does not please me.
By the time you’ve purchased stickers, pencils, kazoos and bouncy balls you’ve spent eighty quid to send a child home with a sugar rush and more bin fodder. Inevitably though, every party I have a small group of children that will come and ask for a party bag. When I explain that I don’t do party bags they momentarily look at me like I’ve told them Santa doesn’t exist. I’m not a monster though. I don’t go round crushing a child’s hopes by way of not producing party bags. Each child went home with a proper sized bag of sweets and a bubble wand.
Bouncy castle hired, face painter booked and we are good to go…..Now just the food.
Normally I let the venue see to the food…like I said, lazy. But due to the prospective numbers my in-laws suggested we cater ourselves to save at least a couple of pence. Now the thought of catering for five year olds made me shit myself and the offer of help (or basically ‘doing it for me’) was more than welcome.
I went and purchased all the necessary foodstuffs for the big day the day before. Wotsits, sausage rolls, Party rings (which are compulsory as they have the word ‘Party’ in their name) and then token fruit and salad that I have to put on so it looks like I’m a good health conscious mother.
On the day, all went really well. Harriet was super excited. She scaled the bouncy castle, went missing for just long enough to give me a heart attack and was so filled with joy when all her friends sang happy birthday to her whist she was presented with her cake that it made all the time, stress and money worthwhile. Even the extremely curmudgeonly staff member couldn’t dampen our birthday spirits (though she had a good go).
After what I think was a successful party we went home satisfied she had had a great time and I swore that parties would now be downsized for the next few years…again my mother in law suggested ‘something at home’ …..does she never learn?!
I could now reach for the gin and not think of Harriets party again until the next new year meet up.
So maybe we did spoil her……but then if you can’t spoil her on her birthday when can you?