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A shadow of my former self

We had the Princess’s sixth birthday party yesterday. I always find these occasions immensely stressful. Firstly, there is the actual organisation and trying to guess how much food might be appropriate, how many party games will be necessary and so on and then there is the concern that no one will come, your child will not be loved and that she has no friends.

The party started at 2.30 and by 2.45 I was seeing nasty flashing migraine shapes (overlapping triangles, since you ask). I took two paracetemol and soldiered on. If you had told me 7 years ago that I could get through a children’s party with a migraine, I would have been astonished. Then, I would retire from whatever activity I was engaged upon and lay my sore head gingerly on a pillow in a darkened room while mulling about when I would be sick. It is amazing how much the human body can withstand.

There were seven little girls at the party and all of them, bar one, were reasonably well behaved. They accepted that they could not win all the prizes and queued up in an orderly fashion for the various entertainments offered. One of them screamed and sulked and retired to her bedchamber in a huff. Our daughter was told that she had to let her guests go first and she did not like that. In future, I think we might just throw our hats at it and say “birthday girl goes first”; there are other occasions to polish up her manners. I had suspected that something of this nature might happen; she was so excited beforehand that there was bound to be a violent reaction. What I had not anticipated was that Daniel would also be atrociously behaved. I think that he must have been tired but he spent most of the afternoon howling in frustration which is unlike him. During pass the parcel, he signally failed to understand the nature of the game and clung to the parcel with impressive tenacity every time it came in his direction. A charming little classmate, who spent some time soothing him, confided to me that she was glad she did not have a little brother and, on the basis of the afternoon’s behaviour, I could not be surprised. She was a lovely little thing and I said to her, “you are a really good girl”. And she replied, “I know, everyone says that to me”. I was delighted that despite the apparent sophistication of the group (they knew all the words to “Mamma Mia” and were conversant with the plot of High School Musical), they were thrilled with their little prizes of 50 cent rubbers and teddy key rings.

I was particularly sad that the Princess missed the pinata bashing (sulking in her room) as she and her father had spent the previous two weeks carefully constructing it. All the children seemed to enjoy it very much and threw themselves on the floor to scoop up its contents with impressive speed when it finally collapsed.

Mr. Waffle and I had made significant efforts to prepare a number of party games but they seemed to take very little time, as follows:
basic face painting – 2 hours and 55 minutes to go;
pin the tail on the donkey- 2 hours and 50 minutes to go;
potato and spoon race – 2 hours and 40 minutes to go;
treasure hunt – 2 hours and 30 minutes to go;
bash the pinata – 2 hours and 25 minutes to go;
pass the parcel – 2 hours and 20 minutes to go;
musical chairs – 2 hours and 10 minutes to go;
absolutely all games exhausted and children tossed into back garden to play in the drizzle – 2 hours to go.

The birthday tea was reasonably successful. We had more or less accurately gauged their capacity though one little girl went through an astonishing quantity of food. I thought that when she saw the chocolate cake, she would regret going through a quite astounding number of cocktail sausages and carrot sticks during the first course but they did nothing to slow her down. It was slightly unfortunate that the main savoury elements of the feast consisted of cocktail sausages, sausage rolls and ham and cheese pizza. This meant that our next door neighbour’s vegetarian daughter had to survive on vegetables and a pizza crust which was sub-optimal. She was also the child at whom Mr. Waffle hissed, “are you at all familiar with the words please and thank you”? I thought that she might be upset but she is made of stern stuff, although the very polite little girl who was sitting beside her looked terrified, the neighbour’s child was unfazed and went on to point out when the sweet course came with Mars bar rice krispie buns (v. nice, ask me for the recipe, if you are interested) that Mars bars are very, very, very bad for you. My sister, knowing my culinary limitations, had baked the birthday cake which was a huge success with all of the participants. The Princess was delighted when the cake came out and everyone sang happy birthday and her face lit up. This was undoubtedly the highlight of what was otherwise, alas, a damp squib from her point of view.

By 5, the birthday tea was over, our stock of party games was exhausted, the drizzle had become solid rain and the visitors’ parents were not expected for at least another half an hour. I had seen the Examiner when I was in Cork (the Irish Examiner is to Cork as the Irish Times is to Dublin) at the weekend and it had, most fortuitously, recommended a series of party games for 5-7 year olds and one of them was paint a face on a paper plate. I did not think much of this at the time but I was despearate so distributed paper plates and gave them some crayons. This was extraordinarily successful. It kept them entertained for longer than any other single party game and it was a good “wind-down” activity. I offer you this information, in case you should ever need it.

Next year, we are going to bring in outside expertise regardless of the cost; we can always remortgage.



4 Responses to “A shadow of my former self”

  1. Kara Says:

    I am very, very impressed. Congratulations on a successful party, and being done with it for another year! Mia is three, and I have convinced myself each year until this point that a family birthday party is sufficient. . .very easy, no games, the only children are cousins and the parents stick around, etc. Do you think for the 4th birthday I’m going to have to give in and invite little friends? Or do you think this is something that can wait until she’s in school (kindergarten starts at age 5 in these parts, and she’ll start preschool when she’s 4 and a half)? I’m a good cook, love to bake, and competant at entertaining, but for some reason the thought of a child’s birthday party terrifies me.

    By the way, I absolutely love the picture of your nightstand. I’ve always been a reader, but I look fairly illiterate compared to you! I need to look back through your archives to find some good fiction recommendations–unless, of course, you’d like to share some favorites in an upcoming post? If you’re interested in such public service, perhaps keep in mind the mother of a highly energetic three-year-old and a 5 month old who loves to nurse all the time, and so this mom has somewhat diminished intellectual capacity currently. Ahem. I guess that’s a request for light fiction recommendations? 🙂

  2. katie Says:

    I know this is not a lot of use now but one of the reasons I’m enjoying leading Rainbows (5-7) rather than Brownies is that they take such an age to do anything – but only if they are doing it themselves. So, yes, pass the parcel is much too quick but get them to make anything crafty and you’ve used up a whole half hour.

    Also I’d be doing pin-the-tail, musical chairs, and potato-and-spoon AT LEAST five times each. More prizes, but also more chance for each to win = less chance for wingeing.

  3. Dot Says:

    I am in awe at your powers of organisation, imagination and endurance. When Hugh gets to the birthday party stage I shall go to the zoo and hire a large lion. That will obviate the need for any other party activities. Ever.

    (We had a party for his first birthday and it was actually rather fun, but everybody at it could be amused either with cake or with a combination of cake and toy ducks, so it suited a lazy mum like me down to the ground.)

  4. gpm Says:

    3 hours???!! I’m astonished you lived to tell the tale. This year we managed to cut Belle’s party down to 1 hour 45 minutes. We toyed with the idea of 90 minutes and felt mean but it would have been fine….


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