Wednesday, 4 March 2015

A guide to party etiquette for small children...

...And 10 top tips to a stress free birthday party

If I wind the clock back a year, when Esme Grace was a 5YO, I can remember a conversation about birthday parties that went like this: 
5YO: Mummy, have you ever been to a birthday party that was rubbish?  
Me: I don't think so. Is there such a thing?
5YO: Yes there is Mummy. When there aren't any party bags to bring home.
Are all children as selfishly egocentric at five? My daughter clearly had a lot to learn regarding party etiquette back then, for rather than look forward to celebrating the child in question’s birthday, she’d look forward to whatever she could get out of it. For a long time, (to my embarrassment), this was all about the balloons.

We would arrive at a party and Esme would immediately grab her balloon of choice, i.e. preferred colour. Then she would spend the entire two hours clutching it tightly, until it was time to bring it home with her. Never mind this meant she was unable to join in with the games, or that she had to eat one-handed.

On realising some parties had balloons purely for decorative purposes, she approached the party parent and still managed to secure not only a balloon for her – but also her sister (who was not even present), so not only did she have one to bring home, but she didn’t have to share it. Here's where I own up to having popped a balloon on more than one occasion, because my daughters have morphed into the ugly sisters. Long after the party is over (and the bubble has burst) the question of a party bag remains.

When did party bags become a requirement? A status symbol? I yearn for my childhood and the days when a party bag contained a gunky piece of cake stuck to a napkin.

I had to remind my daughter, that at her last birthday party, each child took home a balloon and a cup cake. There weren't any party bags in sight. But then what did she care, she had a plethora of presents to open. One of which was a torch, which she broke almost immediately, cheerily proclaiming, ‘That’s okay, we can just buy another one right Mummy?’ Wrong.

We live in such a throwaway culture. It is so sad that our consumerist society plagues all things including the upbringing of our children, so that spoiled brat behavior becomes the norm. Worse still, can begin to run riot. 

My daughter clearly needed to learn the value of going to a party in the first place AND the joy of having fun. Which brings me nicely on to party games.

When did pass the parcel become something where each and every child received a prize? Surely the fun was all about the child having to stand up and sing, or tell a joke, or some kind of forfeit where you generally made fun of yourself.

When did musical chairs become a thing of the past down to the fact that taking seats away one by one was bewildering/bordering on too upsetting?

Why when playing musical bumps are children no longer required to stay sitting out when they are actually out?

What happened to pin the tail on the donkey? These days, piñatas rule and ridiculously robust donkeys are hung drawn and quartered, eventually spilling guts of cheap sweets onto baseball bat wielding children. That’s screwy.

What happened to having to eat your sandwiches first? Hang on a minute, whatever happened to having sandwiches? And that’s when it is a party at home and not at the massive soft play down the road offering an easy way out for parents and a plate of chips for the kids. Yes, let’s just throw money at the problem party.

September birthdays set the trend. And often, one after another the first party idea is utilised by other children in the class. (Frequently the whole class). 
34 children coming. Tick. 
34 Party bags. (Containing crap). Tick.
34 balloons – but helium, not the now considered passé self inflated ones that you nearly died blowing up the night before. Tick.
34 mouths to feed. Food organised. By caterers. Tick.
34 kids being dropped off so that their parents can take advantage of having a break. 
34 hyper lunatics. Ticked off. (One of which is bound to be obsessed with balloons). 

Whatever happened to having a few friends over for musical statues and jelly and ice cream? When did it all become so over the top for young children? Probably since parents allowed guilt to enter into it – and feel they must give their child the best birthday ever. (Even if said child is going to be too young to remember).

Or perhaps since it all became far too stressful - I can remember it being total chaos last time I did a party at home. But hang on a minute, the kids all loved it, and surely that is the point. 

So what should one be expected to do for their young child on their birthday? Don’t panic that’s what. And do the party at home if that's what you want, don't feel overwhelmed. Take a deep breath and relax. Plan well and go for it! 



Suzanne W said...

And when did children become such utter brats at birthday parties?! I'll confess that one year, I did decided to do a traditional party at home, it was the worst decision I've ever made! My girls were about 7 and 9 and they were vile. Hissy fits if Granny didn't 'let' them win the game and crying over the wrong sandwiches. Seriously, I'd rather pay £500 for a party than go through that again! x

Nicola Young said...

Yeah, I'm with Suzanne. I think we had parties at home because there was no other choice, then someone had the bright idea to let parents off the hook by doing it for them - no mess, no cooking, stress free. That's what I call a good party - cynical I know, but by child number three the novelty of the traditional party had worn off!

Sara Murray said...

Parties are quite ridiculous now, but like Suzanne, I've done the at home option, and really I'd rather have someone else entertain the kids! Most places here you still have to do the food yourself though, which involves ordering 10 cheese pizzas from the nearest place and ordering a huge cake from a local bakery...! I think I prefer the soft play, chicken nuggets and chips option :) And, yes, the party bag is a must :)

Sara Murray said...

Oh, and thank you for sharing with #ThePrompt!

Morgan Prince said...

Great post. I remember LP's 4th birthday, we had it at a play centre and although he loved it I felt a bit of a cop-out, I'm just glad that by the time they're 7 the parties have been swapped for a much smaller get together. Friends come over for tea or a cinema trip and that's it. :)