Birthdays used to be an occasion where you ate as much as you wanted before drinking as much as possible and then sleeping in for as long as you needed the day after.
Now your birthday celebrations tend to be muted affairs. Mainly because the turning of the calendar every year now feels like a slow and painful walk towards the big 4-0.
But it’s your children’s birthdays that are exciting these days. It’s lovely to mark the occasion, as well as a chance to roll out that favourite phrase: “I can’t believe she’s xx-years-old! They grow up so fast!”
It’s also lovely to receive invitations for your child to their friends’ parties. I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest fears for my child is that she won’t make friends. Consequently when she’s invited somewhere I get more excited than her!
The trouble is that after the first birthday when kids are just about totting around but not too destructive, all subsequent birthdays – that you attend or organise – are total madness.
Here’s what you’re facing:
1. Kids are hyped up beyond soft play levels of mania and chaos
There’s running, screaming and throwing of anything to hand. And that’s just you and your other half before the party has even started debating who has to take your little darling to their friend’s celebration.
The noise and sheer carnage is exhausting if you’re watching it unfold in someone else’s house. If it’s your own house you’re left feeling like you’ve allowed a pack of crazed monkeys inside. And you’ve paid a fortune to cater for them.
2. You can’t sit out party games
My kids are in the age group where they need help and supervision when participating in party games. If you don’t it will descend into a tear-filled shoving and shouting match as the kids all accuse each other of cheating.
Your dreams of just sitting in the corner and drinking wine until it’s time to go home are ruined. A little piece of your soul dies with every pass of the parcel.
3. Sugar is everywhere
There are goodies packed with sugar in every available surface. Every game ends with every single child receiving some kind of tooth decay nightmare because if someone is left out the resulting meltdown will be ear-splitting.
Your kid will eat so much that they either complain of tummy ache all night, puke or produce a poo that requires a hazmat suit to handle. If you’re really unlucky you’ll get all three.
4. Hysterical laughter turns to tears, tantrums and tale-telling within a split second
When kids are going at a million miles an hour they tend to be even more sensitive than usual.
With all the exciting entertainment comes a rollercoaster of emotions.
5. Gift envy
The children gather close to watch the present being opened. Not because they want to see if the child likes their gifts, no no no.
They want to subtly reach for the wrapping paper and tear a corner. They start with a little bit, then a bit more, until finally they just snatch the present out of the birthday boy or girl’s hands and start a frenzied ripping party of their own.
If the little birthday tot is lucky enough to open their own presents without intervention they then face an uphill struggle to keep them.
If the birthday boy or girl opens a present that your child wants, they have zero hesitation in snatching it off of them. This causes no end of upset as the other kids pile in too.
6. Lack of any social skills
When children socialise it’s hard not to envy them. They have no problem shoving another child out of the way if they’re being annoying, or seeing something they want and just taking it.
The trouble is it just creates chaos, and noise. Lots and lots of noise. There’s a reason why we’ve evolved to have social niceties and general guest decorum. Because otherwise we just come across as a total t**t.
You can just about handle your own child’s rude behaviour but when there’s more than a dozen of them? You want to face plant into the cake so you can block out the carnage.
7. Judgement day
The trouble with children’s parties is there aren’t just kids present, there parents are there too.
The vast majority of fellow mums are very understanding, kind and nice people. They are in the trenches with you after all. We all joined a special club when we squeezed our little darlings out into the world. It’s like we’re sisters from another mister.
However, there’s always one parent with the snooty look. The one who looks disapprovingly as your kid stuffs down their second slice of cake, or cries loudly for the millionth time over a minor squabble with another child.
Facing judgemental parents in a confined space is not fun.
8. Freaky children’s entertainers
If you’re lucky you might just get an over enthusiastic parent dressed as Batman. If you’re unlucky there will be a clown.
Clowns have had a bad reputation since the Stephen King novel It was published. In the words of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, “there’s nothing scarier than a clown”.
9. The mess
You thought adult parties were hard to tidy up after? Wait until you see the utter devastation a group of toddlers can cause in just a few hours.
Adults may produce a lot of empty beer cans, bottles and plates to wash up, but they don’t tread cake into the carpet. They also help to tidy up.
Children will walk up to your sofa, pull every cushion off of it and then walk away. They will take a gulp of juice and then spit it out. They’re not wrecking stuff for a reason, they’re doing it because they can.
10. Setting the bar high
You were planning to cut out some star-shaped sandwiches, buy a few party poppers and have some kids over to play musical statues for your child’s next birthday party.
But little Tilly’s mummy went and hired an entire stable of ponies for her and her friends, as well as exclusive use of a trampoline centre and a slap-up meal at Nando’s.
Now you have the mummy guilts that your little one’s party will be a disappointment by comparison. Now you will end up spending way more than you’ve budgeted for in a desperate bid to keep up with the Joneses.
Obviously all of the good things that come with a birthday party make it so worthwhile.
But we’re still glad we only have to plan one once a year.
As for all the others you have to attend in between, be glad you don’t have to handle the clean-up.