Before children, I thought the wedding industry was the most commercialised con industry preying on emotion-ridden occasions, but now I know different. That honour goes to kids parties. How did we get here, when kids (parents) feel the need to invite 20-30 friends to a hall for a (probably) cheesy entertainer to charge 200 quid or more for an hour, followed by mountains of E number food (the healthy stuff is always left behind, however high we parents pile it on their plates), a much-anticipated cake and expectant faces waiting for a party bag filled with plastic tat and more sugar?
Okay, so I may be being a tad harsh. There are variations: less cost = more E numbers, a dose of playground politics or more stress to organise yourself; more cost = healthier, more interesting food, stunning cake creations and different, or mildly less cheesy entertainment in a slightly less well-used venue…*sigh*
The guilt-trip parent trap is just like the wedding couple trap – if I don’t do it, will my child feel hard done by, if we don’t do all the typical things will the kids/parents think we are cheapskates; if I don’t invite so-and-so, will the parent get the hump, let alone the child; if I buy a cake instead of make it… and so on.
Even more discombobulating (my word of the week, isn’t it fabulous?) was last year, Little H’s 5th birthday. I decided to see how much it would cost to do a DIY version. So I chose three crafty activities, bought all the bits and hosted it myself, with craft, then food, then party games. What I failed to register was that 5 years old, the first year of school here in the UK, is when parents assume parties are drop and run. So there I was, faced with managing mask, jewellery and paper chain making with 20 four to six year old boys and girls. Thank bloomin’ god for my husband, mum and the smattering of my friends who stuck around. One friend commented it was lovely to go to a traditional party for once. It was great, but it was such hard work for me, especially while working, and when I totted up the cost it was nearly the same as an all-in venue / entertainment / food option would have been (although we did end up with a lot of crafty bits left at home, to be fair).
And it’s now that time of year again. I started the venue call around with a heavy heart, feeling both resentful of the industry of the thing and totally conflicted by the fact that I knew Little H would love a party. And, if I’m honest, a lot of my rant is about me, not Little H. She would be happy at home, but I can’t bear the idea of loads of hyper kids (and mess) rampaging through our house on a winter’s day. She would be happy with the same venues/entertainers as her friends, I like variety and the idea of something different.
But I’m very glad to report we’ve found an excellent solution. Little H is happy, I’m happy, Mr H is happy (Littlest H just wants to know he’s coming too). We’re doing a cinema and lunch outing. Five friends who we chose carefully together to be people she actually likes and plays with.
Very little politics to manage, only five invitations to make (aren’t they cute?!), only two calls to organise cinema and lunch, no need for a huge cake, and party bags replaced by cinema/restaurant entertainment goody bags. I am totally in love with the small event version of children’s birthday celebrations. I don’t even care if they eat oysters and champagne for lunch or their body weight in over-priced cinema pick’n’mix, the lack of hassle and stress is fabulous.
I’m already watching the seven year olds’ party options with interest – roll on the small home-based or outing-based options with a few good mates. When it gets to her wedding, Little H is going to go absolutely bonkers…
Rant over 🙂