So as of tomorrow it will be only three weeks til my beautiful baby boy turns 2 and officially becomes a toddler. I don’t want to think I’m wishing his life away, but I can’t wait! He’s so much more fun the older he gets. I’m not saying his babyhood was boring, and god knows it was great when he couldn’t run away at the drop of the hat, but it just wasn’t this much fun. He never looked sideways at me, shrugged, smiled and started doing the hokey cokey when he was baby now did he?
Anyway this isn’t a post about that. About whether the baby phase is better than the toddler phase or vice versa. As I said my son is about to turn 2. And children’s birthdays bring with them that potentially stress inducing ritual – the children’s party!
I’m sure parents of older children, who have been through this and come out the other side are either laughing wryly or shuddering. And despite being new to this game, I think I can see why. But I”ll come back to that.
So OK, my experience of throwing parties, before I had Oscar, involved providing large amounts of booze, a couple of pizzas, some chips and dips and always a big bowl of M&Ms. OK we sometimes threw in rude word scrabble (any word could be used as long as you could justify why it was rude – ‘THOSE’ anyone?) and the chocolate mini roll challenge (how many can you fit in your mouth at once?), but basically if you provided enough booze and combined it with the right people that was enough.
I know this isn’t going to cut the mustard with children (although I think my son may already be in training for the mini roll challenge). And that’s fine. But what is?
So last year when all Oscar and all his little friends turned one, we bucked the trend of a quiet family only affair and had a party for him. But it wasn’t a local party with his little friends. Nope this was totally a party for us as a family. We went to Plymouth (our home town), hired a church hall for £30 and invited everyone we knew. Family, friends, children, the lot. We invited more people to that party than we did to our wedding. And just like our wedding, we had pasties and cake. A gorgeous cake made by my friend Michelle.
We filled the hall with children’s toys (leant to us by the church hall for free) and basically turned it into a Toddler Group for the afternoon. Rather than party bags we gave each child a helium balloon (that had also had served the purpose of decorating the hall) to take away with them, and a piece of cake. And everyone seemed to have an awesome time. I got to see and talk to my friends I don’t see very often and Oscar got to run around like a loon. What more could we ask for?
Yup it was grand. But it was big! And organising something like that from 300 miles away wasn’t the easiest deal, so a while ago we decided not to have a party this year. We are instead going to have a family day out on his actual birthday and then take Oscar and his bessie mate Isabelle and her parents out for tea the weekend after. It still celebrates him turning 2 and the passing of another year, just in a slightly less public way. And I was fine with that. Its just all his little friends (who didn’t have parties last year) are now having parties. And we’re getting invited here there and everywhere. And that’s lovely. But I started to question whether I wasn’t a bit mean not to reciprocate. But then that begs the question, who would I be throwing the party for? Would crowds of 2 year olds start gathering in toddler groups around the area, dissing my name? Would they buggery. They couldn’t care less. As long as someone, somewhere is making with the cheddars and occasional chocolate pirate biscuit, every day’s a party day to them. So I realised I was worrying more about what the adults thought than the children.
And that made me think – is that how it is? Do we invest in hiring ‘exciting’ venues, themeing, various entertainment and spending a fortune on party bags for our children? Or is it, and this may be a controversial question, but is it for other parents? God I hope not. Maybe Pintrest has just too much to answer for, but I hate the idea that a child’s birthday could be used for point scoring among the local parent community. And that’s before you’ve even started to talk about presents! So far this year we have bought Oscar four presents. Three of them are second hand. It wont bother him whether it comes out of a box or not. I’m sure there will come a time when he will dictate that this is no longer acceptable, but until then, I’m buggered if I’m going to be dictated to by some sort of internal mummy bitch!
So after giving myself something of a talking to I decided my initial plan was and still is a blinder and one I’m really happy with. Maybe next year I’ll throw him and his mates a party. And if I do it’ll be one he’ll enjoy (whatever that is when he turns three!) Maybe I’ll do a proper retro one. With pass the parcel. And I wont be putting a prize in every layer that I can tell you. Where did that even come from? Are our children so delicate they can’t learn that not every one wins all the time? Or maybe I’m missing the point and it’s to keep them sitting long enough to finish the game? I don’t know. One thing I plan (and I’ll probably eat my words here) but I plan to forgo party bags completely. The balloon/cake combo went down so well I might give that another go. Maybe his balloon/cake combo will become like my big bowl of M&Ms, not his party without them!
Come back in a year and I’ll let you know how it goes.