The child who calls us Mummy and Daddy turned eight last week. This meant we had to throw a party this weekend.
There are number of reasons why this is traumatic for the Stockin household.
- Mick and I are not hugely social so having to entertain can cause some anxiety.
- It is a long time since we were eight ourselves and we have no idea what is cool anymore.
- Charlotte has Asperger’s, so does not like surprises, noise, too many people, noise, people not following instructions, noise, and noise.
I recall my birthday parties of old, when my Mum effortlessly (in my eyes) whipped up platters of sandwiches, endless supplies of jelly and ice cream and kept us all entertained for what seemed like hours and hours. Not only this, but I used to invite my whole class, and would have parties attended by up to 30 children at a time.
We had to find a way to feed and entertain four…. and still struggled.
First I had Pass The Parcel anxiety. What to put as the main prize? Whether to put a prize in each layer, as is the modern way. What paper to use? How much sellotape and how well to wrap? This was overcome through Asda always having small plush toys for cheap prices, succumbing to the ‘sweets in each layer as a prize’ ploy, using whatever paper I had left over from Christmas and using way too much sellotape, badly, as the children took relish in telling me me as they tried up rip through it on the the day.
Then I remembered, at 8pm the night before, that Charlotte had asked for traffic light jelly and not only did I not have enough time to make and set three colours of jelly, I also had zero jelly in the house. A quick conversation with Charlotte and an errand for Mick later I managed to make two colour jelly. Strawberry and orange. They went down well in the end, I mean who likes lime jelly anyway?
And on the day itself I had a sudden realisation that I had no idea what time the party was ending. As Mick is No. 1 parent he does all the organising and I had not been involved in sending invitations etc. He told me the party was from 10:00 to 13:00.
I pointed out my distress as this and his response was “It will fly by.” These are words he began to regret.
At 10:00 all the children had arrived. By 10:20 we had opened presents, played musical bumps, musical statues and pass the parcel and run out of prizes, and the children were demanding jelly.
We managed to occupy them in the garden for 10 minutes, and then up in Charlotte’s bedroom for 10 minutes more. Then they all sat down and started playing on the Wii U. Kirby and Rainbow Paintbrush to the rescue. Only this was not what I envisioned the party to be. I expected games in the garden, dancing to music, and the party games to have lasted more than 11 minutes.
Mick had a brainwave at this point and got out a paddling pool and filled it as the group were Wii Uing. Great idea BUT they were all in party clothes (except Charlotte who always dresses for comfort). I had to find three spare pairs of shorts, three spare t-shirts and one spare pair of knickers for the one friend who really went to town in the pool.
Excellent, this will keep them busy I thought. Which it did, Until 11:30.
I decided to feed them at this point but children eat fast when you don’t want them to and by 11:50 they were needing to be occupied again.
I reminded Mick that he said this would “fly by”. He looked pained.
Cake filled another 10 minutes but that also fuelled them with sugar. Back outside they were sent and the paddling pool did its job until 12:30 but then Charlotte started to realise that three friends are a lot to deal with in one go and the friends stared to get bored and trailed off to wee, get changed, look at things, be somewhere else.
By 12:45 I was checking my clock every 30 seconds and the group were back on the Wii U. I had lost the will to battle against the tech and everyone seemed fine and ready to go home. Then the blessed relief of the first parent to arrive to collect their little person. What a joy that is. I have never been happier to see people on my doorstep. But of course the children now are occupied and happy and don’t want to leave. Lots of cajoling later the last of the three exited the house.
So what did I learn from this experience.
- My Mum really was VERY good at this kind of thing and needs to be given an award.
- Two hours is the maximum time a children’s party should be, if they are to be held at all.
- You need more prizes, always more prizes.
- Mick and I are not party planners.
- I love having one child, that is the optimum number for me to cope with, and even then it is sometimes a stretch.
I am never going to be one of those parents who seems to have it all together, even some of the time, but when I asked Charlotte if she had had a good time she said yes and in the end that is all that matters.