Wednesday, 6 October 2010

It's party time

October is a busy month chez FDMTG as boy one and two both have their birthdays this month, so I find myself in the annual round of chasing up RSVPs to find out if 1, 10, 20 or 30 of their friends plans to attend, tracking down elusive themed party decorations, expelling expletives over the cost of balloons - how can a puff of helium in a plastic bag cost so much - and generally tearing my hair out.

I am not sure quite how children's parties go so out of control. Back in my day parties were held at home, there was pass the parcel with just the one prize, pin the tail on the donkey, jelly and ice cream and a slice of cake wrapped in a napkin to take away.

Nowadays you have to hire a hall and a professional entertainer months in advance, order decorations, usually themed to go with some long defunct show or film that the boys are currently obsessed with, at great expense online and amass a party bag that would have constituted a proper present back in the 70s.

And I consider my parties to be relatively restrained by modern standards. I don't hire in face painters or a bouncy castle and my party bags are a modest collection of cheap toys and a slice of cake. My boys have left parties in the past clutching hardback books as going away presents that probably cost more than the gift they had given to the birthday child.

The problem is that I LOVED birthday parties when I was young, which is why I love throwing them now. I still remember the excitement of going to my friend Sara's parties. I loved her house with its pastel carpets and neat decor, I loved the excitement of ripping the newspaper layers off pass the parcel, the enormous anticipation to see who would be the lucky one to win the prize. The thrill if it was you who got to unwrap that small package of sweets.

I adored the wonky iced home made fairy cakes showered with silver balls and multicoloured hundreds and thousands, none of your fancy swirly iced cup cakes back in the day. The ham sandwiches on white bread, the Hula Hoops and Monster Munch, the joy of mixing jewel bright jelly into milky ice cream and sucking up the messy results through a straw.

I want to give my children those treasured memories of special days with their friends, though I am not sure that they have the same degree of appreciation as they are just so pampered. What was a huge treat to me, is just an everyday weekend to them. They got to parties all the time and each one is more extravagant than the last, so it is hard to tantalise their jaded palates.

I know this is my fault as a parent. I know I should get tough and make my children appreciate how lucky they are so they can experience the same excitement I felt over birthday parties. Trouble is I find it so hard to spoil their fun by rolling out my own version of the Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen sketch. So fingers crossed I will have pulled out enough stops to pique their interest this year, now I must go and track down a Dr Who birthday cake.


  1. Oh how I despair of the modern party and all that goes with it. Like you, I grew up in an era when parties were exciting even if they consisted of pass the parcel, cake and a tiny going-home present. Now, one of the boys attends a party each week consisting of the parents having rented a huge venue full of inflatable slides, costing at least 300 pounds. The awful thing is that you feel you have to do it too, or your child will wonder why their party is so boring in comparison.

  2. I've done parties at home, but yes, everyone has to win lots of prizes, and there has to be a little something between the wrappers of the pass the parcel - you can't just have one big present at the end.

  3. Even now, at 25, a Dr Who birthday cake would make my dreams come true. You must be on the right track!