Kids’ birthday parties, a good idea for a blog post, I thought. I can rattle off a rant about junior school shindigs in the time it takes Lola to eat her way through a packet of party bag Haribos. To wit, remarkably quickly.
But hold that thought, I thought. How about waiting, returning to the idea in the first or second week of September shortly after Lola’s fifth birthday party, unleashing the diatribe when the wounds are raw, the credit card bill unpaid, the post-traumatic stress still being worked through.
Yet here I am writing about birthday parties in mid-June. Which begs the question why? Neither of my kids was born in June. There should be few topics further from my mind.
The reality is, when you have a four year old the topic of birthday parties is never far from your mind. If it isn’t parties for your own kids, it’s their friends’ parties.
And it’s an arms race, I tell you. Birthday parties are competitive these days. Boy, are they competitive. It starts with the save the date email which usually lands a good four to six months before the party itself, because you have to make sure no one’s planning to go on holiday or attend a wedding or celebrate their own child’s birthday when your kid’s throwing their party, right?
If you include her own, Lola already has four parties in the diary for the first two weeks of September. Yes, four. God forbid we might want to enjoy our weekends. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to manage it when Mina starts coming home with invitations in her book bag. I’m wondering whether Uber will do party drop-offs and pick-ups and, if not, I may have hit on the business venture of the century.
The parties themselves regularly verge on the ludicrous. Some of them wouldn’t have looked out of place in The Great Gatsby. I’ve been to fifth birthdays that make the Queen’s 90th appear low-key. The Chancellor throws around less money in his Budget.
It was different in my day. I remember the parties I went being more modest affairs. They generally took place in fast food restaurants. Wimpy featured heavily. How I miss the Eighties.
Now I’m convinced it’s only a matter of time before Lola gets an invitation to a party at Wembley Stadium with entertainment by Cirque du Soleil, Heston Blumenthal doing the cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks and Bieber providing the soundtrack for pass the parcel.
What’s more, non-attendance is not an option. Lola won’t countenance it. She literally cannot get enough of parties. It could be her full time job; she’d make an excellent D-list celebrity. In her class, she’s a member of a highly elite group that has been to every one of her classmate’s extravaganzas this year.
The irony is Lola doesn’t even like birthday parties.
The only things she enjoys about the whole affair are the cake and the party bags. The rest of it, the hundred quid an hour entertainers, the chaotic games, the sweaty dancing in polyester princess dresses, those she can live without.
She’s in it for the payoff, the final few minutes of gorging on dry sponge cake slathered in garish icing that indelibly stains her hands for weeks afterwards, then making off with a plastic bag full of bin filler and a helium balloon that will come close to making me crash the car at least three times on the drive home.
Yet the only thing less appealing than going to kids’ parties is arranging one for your own child. Now that the save the date has gone out for Lola’s birthday celebration my role as a parent is reduced to that of party planner until that fateful day in early September.
Of course, being naturally a bit of a grouch, parties aren’t the only things that wind me up about having kids. In fact, I’ve written about some of the other things before.