I love a Party, I especially love organising parties. I love writing the endless lists and carrying out the precision planning to pull off the perfect party with fabulous food, delicious drinks, great games, marvellous music and dashing decor. Whilst you may begin with paper, a pencil and good intentions, it’s amazing how quickly it all falls together to become the perfect day with happy guests and most importantly, a beaming birthday boy/ girl.
For J’s first birthday we had a simple family gathering with a buffet lunch in the garden. We invited our family and spent the afternoon playing with J in his new sandpit/ water table and chatting over ice cream. We kept it simple and it worked, sometimes simple can actually be more special.
The following year we tried to do the same but we were struck with heavy rain and so were stuck inside entertaining a bunch of toddlers with random toys. It was more of a play date than a party but looking back it worked well because it was low-key and laid back. It was just what we all needed at that point in parenthood, to bang the kettle on and to relax over a catchup whilst the kids had fun playing.
We were planning to hire somewhere for J’s third birthday but there seemed little point as whilst he attended nursery, J didn’t really have any friends as such and so it seemed far simpler and far more comfortable for J and us to do our usual ‘in house party’. We didn’t have a huge house, far from it! It was just big enough to accommodate our close friends, family and their children for a small celebration without the endless fuss and flapping that most kids birthday parties seem to warrant. It was yet another play date type party and once again it worked for us all.
A year later we had moved house and had a little bit more space to play with. We had invited a few of J’s friends and family to yet another ‘small shindig’ to celebrate him turning four years old. We had organised for a bouncy castle to be delivered to entertain the kids. That afternoon just as the guests were to arrive the heavens opened and we were notified that thanks to the rain we would no longer be supplied with a bouncy castle. J was gutted but we made the best of a bad situation by playing none stop games with the children and filling the guests full of buffet food. We still had fun but it could have been better.
The following year I made a promise to J that no matter what, we would definitely get a bouncy castle for the day when he turned five. J had started school that September and we felt it was important to invite some of his school friends to a party with some decent entertainment. We toyed with the idea of hiring a venue and inviting his whole class but we had a nine month old so decided to do one last ‘house based birthday bash’ with a bouncy castle of course! I didn’t care if it killed me, I was going to get a castle for my son come rain, hail or shine.
I spent hours sourcing a bouncy castle hire company that could guarantee me a castle no matter what the weather, I was lucky enough to stumble upon Zebedees Inflatables whilst online. Zebedees Inflatables offered covered bouncy castles (castles with a roof) so that the kids could happily bounce without getting wet from rain or sunburnt from hot weather, what a super idea! Lucky for us the sun was shining and the party was a huge success.
For J’s sixth birthday party we decided to take on the ‘whole school class’ party and so hired a hall. We then hired two bouncy castles, a large bouncy slide and a large soft play area to cater for all ages. It seemed a little on the expensive side but in comparison to most soft play centre party prices it seemed pretty fair.
We spent hours making the food and packing it up to transport to the venue. Add to that the hours selecting and downloading suitable tracks for the party compilation CD. Then there was the joyful task of filling thirty odd party bags with mood rings, bubbles, stickers, sweets and random other crap.
The morning of the party we rushed around decorating the venues tables and walls with colour coordinating decor, I then organised the Music, the party bags and other bits and bobs to ensure that the day would go without a hitch. There was meant to be thirty-five kids but it turned out to be more like twenty, three-quarters of which were left by their parents to be under our supervision as they bounced around like loons for a few hours, high on sugar, crashing into one and other before loading up on sandwiches and snacks and starting all over again. It was great fun, chaos but fun. J loved it as did we (seeing J’s face made it all worth it for us) but it just seemed so expensive and so over the top… I don’t know, just not really ‘out type of party’ especially considering J isn’t keen on large crowds or loud noises.
I didn’t mind doing the whole class party thing but there were times when I felt it just wasn’t worth the hassle. Firstly there was the invites that some people kindly replied to, then of course there were those parents that didn’t see the need to reply, instead they left me hanging wondering whether their little darlings would be attending at all. I found that I had to chase people to find out numbers and in doing so I felt like I was becoming the playground nuisance each school pickup asking random parents “Have you decided whether Billy will be coming to the party on Saturday?” It probably got on my tits more than theirs but still, it was hard work.
Following the invites there was the party bags, thirty-five bags to be precise to suit thirty-five kids according to age, gender and dietary requirements. Don’t get me wrong, I love a party bag but good god, do you know how much the usual tat that’s in them comes to when added together for thirty something kids? I just don’t see how I can justify spending fifty quid on plastic crap and sweets, it just doesn’t sit right with me.
The party itself wasn’t an issue (other than having to supervise a huge amount of kids as they diced with the chance of a split lip, or worse whilst clattering into each other on the inflatable’s). Thankfully two of my Mummy friends saved the day and helped us to ‘bouncer the bounce party’ along with our parents and a few others. But still, I did worry that someone would end up hurt, most probably a kid whose parent had left for a relaxing few hours and would more than likely deem me as responsible for any damage done. I had been wise enough to save every phone number as each RSVP arrived via text to ensure I had emergency contacts for such an event. Luckily there were no major accidents, we seemed to get off fairly lightly.
The price wasn’t such a huge issue either, whilst the equipment and the hall hire combined may have cost us the best part of a two hundred pounds, it wasn’t a problem. My problem was simply the extent and size of the party when some parents didn’t even bother to bring their children despite sending an RSVP stating otherwise. It just felt… Too big ? Too chaotic? Too expensive? Too dangerous? Too stressful? Maybe just a little bit of them all mixed together… Just too much really.
I have to be honest, I think kids parties seem to getting blown way out of proportion these days, costing parents more and more each year despite them promising to ‘tighten the purse strings’ next time. The problem is that kids soon become accustomed to over-sized and over-priced parties, their expectations ever increasing and as a result parents feel that they must conform in order to fulfill their children’s ideas of ‘the norm’. Each year parties are getting bigger and more elaborate, I have even seen parents becoming competitive to ‘out-party’ each other, it is plain ridiculous and I choose to have no part of it.
This year we have decided to opt for a ‘day out’ rather than a party as J is seven and therefore old enough to understand that there isn’t a need for a large class party, not only that but it isn’t really ‘the done thing’ anymore now that he’s getting older.
We are taking J and a couple of his friends to the cinema to see the recently released ‘Angry Birds’ Movie. Those of you that know me well will be well aware that Angry Birds has been a firm favourite for J since he was two and half-years old. He has collected almost every soft toy, plastic figure, item of clothing and random other Angry Birds accessories that Rovio have kindly produced and therefore I am fairly certain that J will be happy with our choice of outing.
I guarantee that the kids will enjoy themselves no matter how much money is or isn’t thrown at the matter and the only ones that will really remember all the details from the day are the parents that prepped, planned and worked their socks off to ensure that the kids stayed safe, had fun and were sent home smiling.