The Birthday Party Parenting Debate
I have long debated with my husband whether or not as parents we should leave or remain at children’s birthday parties. J is seven years old now and whilst that seems a suitable age for a child to be left with adult supervision, I still feel that as parents we have a duty to stay, to supervise our children and to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish to molly coddle my children but neither do I wish to leave them with strangers, perhaps not to me personally but certainly to my children who neither know nor possibly trust the adults present.
There is also the added worry that something may go wrong, perhaps my child may have an accident, a tantrum, a meltdown or feel tense being left to their own devices with adults unknown to them.
Would my child seek a potential stranger for help if they were to find themselves in trouble?
Would the adult supervisor notice my child becoming tense?
Would my child be able to seek comfort from the adult present should they feel uneasy?
Would my child actually ask another adult for food or drink should they be hungry or thirsty?
I very much doubt that my children would feel comfortable being left in a chaotic, noisy and unknown venue without having the safety net of their parents.
Learning From Experience
My son was recently invited to two parties both of which took place upon the same weekend, the first of which was based in a soft play centre almost fifty minutes drive from where we live. As I was working my husband took our son to the venue, he knew some of the parents that were staying and so decided to use the time to get some shopping done whilst he was in town.
Meanwhile I sweated it out at work worrying about J, wishing that Paul had stayed with him and hoping to God that there were no accidents or upsets. As it turns out the party involved laser guns and our son had become quite upset when his gun became defective and as a result he was pelted by the other children and ‘lost the game’. J isn’t a very good loser and the other parents had wondered whether to contact my husband mid-meltdown but after coaxing J with food and drink he seemed to cheer up but still, I wish that Paul or I had been there to help out.
My concern wasn’t only for J but for the parents present, particularly those hosting the party as I am fairly certain having hosted many children’s birthday parties myself that hosting a party is stressful enough without the added worry of dealing with accidents and upsets involving children whose parents are not present.
The next day J was to attend yet another party, this time the party was only a few minutes away from where we live. Once again, I was working and so Paul took J to the venue and decided to try leaving J under the party hosts supervision for a second time. He then sent me a text message informing me of the above, upon reading the message something deep down didn’t feel right about the situation and so I replied asking Paul to return to the venue and to help out with the party. It was a girls party which was not really J’s scene and following his meltdown the previous day I wasn’t willing to take any chances.
As asked Paul went back to the venue, at first he thought I was being an over-protective Mother and seemed irritated by my request to return. However, upon arriving at the venue he found J stood bloody mouthed as he had just lost another of his milk teeth, poor J was distraught and so very relieved to see his Daddy.
Paul agreed there and then that it simply isn’t right to leave our children in anyone else’s care during a birthday party, the whole scenario is simply far too stressful and potentially hazardous. We would hate for anything to happen to our children whilst at a party, I personally don’t feel that it’s fair to our children nor to a party host to leave them without our supervision as of yet.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
I completely understand that parents will and do leave their children at birthday parties, I have been to parties where almost all the parents have left their children to be supervised by the hosts. Whilst I commend their bravery and trust, I simply do not feel able nor ready to do this for some time yet.
Whilst I will always ensure that my children have a parent present at parties, I also understand that in some cases the hosts would prefer it if parents were to leave whether it be that the venue is too small for parents to remain or simply that other parents staying may feel like there are prying eyes.
As a parent attending parties I try to get involved with helping the host where possible whilst keeping a close eye on my children. It can be a difficult balance at times as you don’t want to come across as the interfering Mother. I’ve actually got to a stage now where I care very little about what others may think or say about my parenting choices, my only concern is for the wellbeing of my children.
There are so many different types of parties, some are tame parties, involving traditional pass-the-parcel games and such like, whereas others feature bouncy castles, trampolines, bikes, scooters and all matter of fun and games. Potentially, for our clumsy kids any type of party is unlikely to end without a few bumps, scrapes or tears shed. I would never wish for my children to be unable to come to us, their parents for comfort should they feel the need and so for now… I will remain.