Birthday parties? What’s the deal? A fun filled, laughter packed day making memories, or a total, time consuming, logistical nightmare? Years ago, in my pre-children, opinion fuelled, youth, I read an article about the schools that insist upon everyone in the class getting invited to every party or the party isn't allowed to go ahead. Sure, I had things to say; I questioned how fair it was on the parents and children of families that simply couldn't afford to accommodate thirty children, would that child spend his/her youth without a single party because of school protocol? Or would the parent risk being victimised if they broke the rule so their child might be allowed their own special day?
Here in rural Oxfordshire we are very much in the party season. It’s been weeks since we had a party free weekend. Oh, I’m not talking about myself or my husband, no our social lives, overall, suck arse. I’m referring to the endless invites stacking up on our coat hook shelf; unicorn parties, super hero parties, ball pools, trampolines, farms. Every weekend we wake to blind panic that we haven’t yet bought so-and-so a birthday present. Mummy and Daddy are dragged from our warm bed to walk the aisles of WH Smith and argue about budget. It is getting to the point when a small loan may need to be acquired to keep up. I could, of course, a) refuse the invite or b) refuse to get a present, but how are either of those options truly fair? In truth, I love the look on my children’s faces when they get the invitation, the sheer joy at being included, and the birthday party present buying and standing around performing small talk at the younger parties is definitely better than them not getting an invite at all.
It seems class politics are largely at play now, particularly with my eldest. We have had the nights when she has come home in tears after not being invited to a party, one she really thought she would have been, and having to listen to her friends discuss it in front of her all day at school. After that I started to wonder if the protocol on the whole class being invited was a good idea after all.
It’s our turn now. March is the month of birthdays in our household, with both daughters within two weeks of each other. The invites have gone out but deciding on numbers and guests was almost as painful as writing the seating plan for my wedding (divorced families, you know where I am coming from). There was a number and age restriction on the party my youngest chose, which was fantastic. I liked having my hands tied and being able to make the point that sorry, we are only allowed eleven children, so no siblings, extra friend, nieces, nephews etc. The eldest’s was harder, a party at home and we only have a certain amount of space, and a certain amount of money, but if we don’t invite this person, we will hurt her feeling, and that person simply MUST come. I must admit; this guest list is still growing…
As the RSVPs began coming in the one thing, I noticed was the heartfelt thanks offered by every parent; ‘thank you so much for inviting her,’ ‘Oh he will love it,’ leading me to believe it’s not just me that feels heartbroken for my child when their invite goes astray. Party protocol? I don’t think I will ever get it, but man, pre-kids I never knew birthday parties could be such a gigantic head fuck!