I told Tom ages ago he could have a monster birthday party. He had a brilliant jungle party at home for his third birthday two years ago, but the fifth is the first school one and a bit of a special occasion. I didn’t think of the logistics though..
Birthday parties are the part of parenthood no one prepares you for when you’re busy considering the obvious, early stuff like nappies and sleepless nights.
For a start, how are you supposed to know who to invite? Four year olds are a fickle bunch and the list of who’s their friend and who hasn’t been very nice to them varies daily. I’d really rather not invite any of the naughty ones, but how can you be sure which is which? Did you know that the parents don’t actually attend the party? In this age of blame, you are responsible for a church hall full of giddy children who are bound to fall and injure themselves / vanish / eat something they’re allergic too whilst in your care? I didn’t know that, my Mum told me – and made me feel really stupid for not knowing that already. Did you also know that it costs an unholy amount to hire a musty old church hall? And that you have to hire it by the hour and stick an extra one on the end to clean up vomit (because at least one child will vomit.) There’s that cost on top of platters of food that will end up either in the bin or ‘unwasted’ (covered in cling film by Mum, still shrivelling in the fridge a week later.) And children cry and throw tantrums if they don’t win prizes in games. All of this and no booze allowed. No matter how much you sometimes have to do things for the love of your children and even if it is part of what you sign up for, I really didn’t fancy any of this.
I started to look into soft play areas, which are generally smelly, desolate places beneath corrugated metal on battered industrial estates. Children like them though and the food is often thrown in. A quick Google for suitable North West venues revealed some sort of conspiracy among soft play area proprietors to spell their name as spectacularly wrong as possible, with a contest to throw in as many rogue zs as they can:
Antz in Your Pantz
(OK, I’m anal. But I can’t think of a possible reason for this phenomenon. Can anyone explain?)
I then discovered that the three earmarked party dates clash with Manchester United fixtures and that there was a very real chance I could fork out that money and dress Tom as a monster and loads of the kids wouldn’t even turn up. That would be really sad. It was all becoming rather stressful.
“Where have the other children in his class had parties?” asked Mum, calming me down during a particularly desperate party stress phone call.
I stopped to think, then realised. He has only ever been invited to one party since he started that school six months ago. It’s not that he’s unpopular, it’s that the other kids’ parents aren’t daft. They just send them to school with 35 bags of mini Haribo to dish out. I asked Tom how he felt about not inviting school friends and he said it was fine.
So it’s family and close friends, in the park if the weather permits, then all back to ours. A mini monster party, if you like. A civilised monster gathering. And in honour of the monster monster party that never was, his classmates are getting a boxful of these little fellas instead of the Haribo. Phew.