At Home Mums' Blog

Take a light hearted look at the issues faced by mums home with the kids. Read some personal views on the challenges of raising children today, and the pressures mums face. My website - - has some more serious and hopefully useful stuff on all these topics. I'd love to get your comments and advice. If anyone out there can help this mum maintain her sanity, it would be much appreciated!

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Monday, 27 July 2009

The 5th Birthday Party - part 2

I have an annoying habit of re-living social situations seemingly in case I did something disasterous and our guests didn't actually enjoy themselves. This even applied to the 5 year old birthday party. I say even, but in reality, we have done very few social events since number 2 arrived, so having 20 kids, plus mums to our house was a major social event for me.

I have, of course, vowed never to do it again (remind me of that when it comes to Michael's birthday or Holly's first Kindergarten party at the age of 6), but in reality it all went remarkably well.

There were a couple of things I'd planned that just didn't happen. I was going to write in chalk 'This way to Holly's party' on our driveway for those who haven't been here before, and I had planned to cook baby sausages and had some of those cute little dinner rolls that they fitted perfectly, but time got away with me. It's not like we didn't have enough food, but they might have tipped the balance slightly away from a total sugar hit.

We played some traditional games - musical numbers, musical bumps, pass the parcel and musical statues, and I compared and balanced Michael on my hip and tried to adjudicate fairly while not letting anyone get too sad. All of which was rather stressful and I found myself getting rather hot on what was really a fairly cool winter's day. It was only when I removed my cardigan to cool down a bit that I reliased in all the rush of preparation that morning, I'd forgotten to put my bra on. If you've read my booby entries you'll know this isn't a problem from a support perspective, but I do generally wear a bra in public. Luckily the next event was the Treasure hunt outside and I could cool off and retrieve the jumper!

The treasure hunt was the highlight of the games. I'd drawn maps for everyone and they had to collect a shiny stone, dig up a dinosaur from our sandpit, fish for a frog from our water table, hunt for a gold coin and collect some beautiful shells. The last clue led them to a duck sitting on some eggs and each child had to pick an egg and bring it back to the treasure box. Inside the eggs were jelly dinosaurs and in one egg was the key to the treasure box. Unfortunately I got waylaid helping one of the slower treasure hunters outside, and I missed the opening of the treasure. Our neighbour's 6 year old found the key and the treasure was gone by the time I and some of the other kids even got to the box. It didn't seem to be a problem though.

Food was a good distraction, but even so, we had time for more games than originally planned and I had a memory blank on the list of extra games I'd put together. We ended up with Hide and Seek and took so long that we nearly forgot to do the cake and candles. As it was, Dad missed it as he was outside entertaining Michael at the time, and I had to start the Happy Birthday rendition on my own, which, as singing is not my forte, led to a rather untuneful sing song.

Mums started to make moves to leave and a couple of the girls came and said their goodbyes and then stood waiting, looking expectant. It took me a moment to realise the party bags had not been handed out. If it had been our neighbours, they would have just asked me outright, but these were far too polite! I really must get more practice at these social niceties. Or delegate. Yes, delegate.

I'd put the wine and tea and coffee out for mums with some nibbles, but only a few partook. It was worth it though. I got stuck in to a couple of glasses of wine as soon as my responsibilities were over.

So the big question is, did Holly enjoy her party? Amazingly, she only had one breakdown and that was minor. Other kids all wanted to play musical bumps and she didn't, so she retreated to her room. As I was in charge of games, I left her to it, and Dad was looking after Michael who was taking some time out on the trampoline at that moment, so Holly got no attention and soon returned to the games, which worked pretty well.

The presents were of course, a big hit. We originally put them on one side to open later, but after the food, Holly wanted to get stuck in, and I think it's kind of nice opening presents in front of the present givers. The obvious stress was keeping track of who gave what present as cards got flung in one direction, paper strewn everywhere and presents dropped ready for the next one. We have today handed out little thank you notes with photos from the party at pre-school, and I'm almost sure we've got the presents matched up correctly, but I'm still half expecting someone to say, 'actually we didn't give Holly this, we gave her that.' I'm philosophical about it, after all, all her presents were lovely and they're lucky to get a thank you note at all!

When the party was over, our neighbours' children stayed, and Holly had a lovely play with them and some of the new toys. As us adults finally relaxed with a drink, it occurred to me that Holly was having the best fun now, with her special friends. I asked her later whether she enjoyed the party and she said yes, but there were a few too many people there. I'd tend to agree.

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Saturday, 11 July 2009

The 5th Birthday Party

It is Holly's 5th birthday on Thursday, so today we wrapped her presents. And when I say we, I mean Holly and me. I did suggest I ought to wrap them without her, so they'd be a surprise, but no, that's not the way this birthday is going. It is Holly's birthday, and Holly is in charge. So if Holly says she'll wrap the presents, then who am I to complain? After all it saves it being a last minute event the night before the big day. She's going to hide them as well.

I have managed to keep back a few things so there'll be some real surprises on the day, but it's obviously not important. What seems to be most important is that this is her day, and it needs to be done her way.

I have suggested numerous party games, describing them in elaborate detail, making them sound as appealing as possible, but although some have been given a 'Oh that sounds good', it's generally followed by a , 'but I don't want that at my party.'

Pass the Parcel was always first on the list, and I've been allowed to add a Treasure Hunt and Musical Numbers. Any games with lots of prizes were the winners, but nowadays where everyone has to get something from the parcel and each child is supposed to end up with a prize, this could get expensive.

I raided the local 2 dollar shop and ended up with a bucket full of prizes, most of which Holly put in the party bags. It took me 3 days to persuade her that if we didn't leave some things out, there would be no pass the parcel and no prizes for any other game. And no, I wasn't going back for another bucket full.

The other issue is numbers. This started as a relatively small, civilised party, but then Holly came home from pre-school and announced she'd invited 7 other girls from her class. Now I guess if I'd said up front that 10 would be the absolute maximum, I could have enforced it, but I made the mistake of assuming that because Holly only ever talks about one girl at pre-school and her friends the neighbours, that we were quite safe. Our little girl is not an outgoing party animal. How was I to know she'd turn into a social butterfly once the party was announced?

I've got no idea how 4 and 5 year olds work. If I didn't follow up these 7 extras, would they remember? Would Holly be ostracised for un-inviting these guests? We have worried slightly that Holly hasn't got many friends and is quiet and 'shy' in social situations, so this sudden onslaught of friends has to be embraced, doesn't it?

So, with siblings who have to be included, because I've chosen a Thursday afternoon so hubbies aren't home to watch them, we are now up to 20. I am hoping for a sunny day, or if it rains, a sudden bout of swine flu. If I remove a large amount of furniture, our house can accommodate the kids and the mums who will generally decide to stay, so long as no-one eats too much sugar and decides to run a muck.

Let's face it, it is going to be chaos. I think if I accept that up front, my sanity may just remain in tact. We went to our neighbour's house a few weeks ago for another 5 year old party, and this one had even more children and adults there. The mum was fantastic, but she was definitely stressed. And the alcohol came out before the last guests had departed. On this note, I have decided to get the alcohol out up front. For the mums that is. Hopefully at least one or two of them can have a relaxing glass and a chat while I deal with the party games. I'll make sure my receovery supply is available post party.

So why do we mums put ourselves through this? For me, I think the primary driver is giving Holly a good time, but there is definitely an element of living up to the competition. I am lucky that Holly doesn't want anything too fancy, so apart from the excessive amount of prizes, we haven't had to spend out on entertainers or bouncy castles or kindy farms. Also, she's happy with a basic round cake, so long as it's covered in loads of icing, marsh mallows and smarties. I was a bit worried after we saw an amazing pirate ship cake at last week's party, but I'm still safe on that one.

But, if the kids don't have fun, I can't blame the entertainer or the caterer, so the pressure's on to perform.

I used to think that having a party at a play centre was an expensive cop out. I am now convinced that it would be no more expensive, and it's a guilt free cop out. After all, the objective is for the birthday girl and her friends to have fun. Unfortunatley this party girl wanted her party at home again this year and before the party expansion happened, I was happy to encourage this. Home is her territory and she is most relaxed here and most likely to have fun. Still, I am expecting at least one major tantrum (whether it's mine or Holly's is yet to be determined) and I fear I should be playing 'It's my party and I'll cry if I want to'...

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