Kate Woodroffelearns about toddler parties the hard way

They say the most stressful life events are moving house, getting married and having a baby. That’s all very well, but I think we need to give due credit to the stress involved in arranging a children’s birthday party.

It all starts off so simply: about a month before their birthday I say to husband, “I think we should hire a room for the party this year so we can invite a few more of their little friends and it’ll be all cute and we can sing songs, eat a party tea, bla-di-bla..”I find myself getting all excited at the thought of the little kiddies sitting around singing songs, having their party tea, blowing out the candles, then heading home with a little party bag containing a piece of cake and maybe one toy because we’re not bloody made of money you know!

Then a week or two pass and I find myself deciding that the party should have a monkey theme and start busily searching for toddler and adult monkey outfits on ebayplus all manner of matching accessories. One thing leads to another and days before the party I find myself purchasing monkey-shaped cookie cutters to make monkey-shaped biscuits and searching Sainsbury’s for monkey nuts so I can leave a trail of them from the reception down the (3-4 metre) corridor to the room we have hired. I imagine the kiddies and their parents spotting the nuts, laughing, looking for the next one and gaily skipping towards the room.

Then before you know it I’ve visited every local supermarket and found they don’t stock monkey nuts this time of year: it being the end of November they’re only stocking ‘festive’ nuts. So I find myself saying “That’s OK, I shall replace real monkey nuts with cut out pictures of them instead, and while I’m at it I’ll print out a load of monkey colouring-in pictures for a ‘craft section.” I then find myself thinking, “Ooh maybe I can make little mini colouring-in books to put in their party bags along with their – what now seems like a rather measly – slice of cake and a small bottle of party bubbles.” Fortunately, in an uncharacteristic moment of clarity, I decide that is going too far.

By the eve of the party I find myself frantically cutting out (unfestive) monkey nuts one minute while making and decorating monkey-shaped ginger biscuits the next. Oh and of course I have the brilliant idea that the kiddlies can help me make the biscuits, which naturally translates into a game of running joyfully around the flat covering everything in flour, followed by fights over the dustpan and brush when I try to make tidying-up a game, and inevitably ends with them both collapsing in a tantrum of howls.

By the time the actual party starts I have developed a somewhat noticeable twitch in my cheek and soon find myself shouting at husband that, “It would really help if you could get the booze out of the car now!”While a nagging thought at the back of my mind tells me that I might have lost touch with the whole point of the party, I still can’t stop myself Blu-tacking all those blessed (but not festive) monkey nuts along the corridor, even though most of the guests have now arrived and are enjoying themselves in the room WITHOUT HAVING FOLLOWED THE MONKEY NUT TRAIL TO GET THERE!!

I decide a sip of fake bubbles will help, but now little girlie one is crying non-stop and husband tells me best use of my time is to comfort her rather than decorate a corridor with nuts. I don’t even laugh. Instead I smoothly flip into calm, quiet mother mode and me and little girlie one wander happily looking at all my wonderful pictures of monkeys and nuts (ah-ha! there was a point to them after all).

Drowned monkey

She has just calmed down and is murmuring a tentative ‘oo-oo-oo’ when someone rushes over bearing the news that, “There has been a disaster with your biscuits!”. I smoothly flip out of calm, quiet mother mode and rush into the kitchen, sending little girlie one into floods again. The biscuits have been left too close to the sink and the box is now full of water with a dozen now double-sized monkey biscuits inside, all doing back stroke.

I realise that it is pointless. Chaos is in charge, not me. So I sit down, snuggle my little girlie and drink my drink. The party happens. I barely remember it. Little girlie one cries throughout and then we fill about 18 bags of uneaten food and head home. Crying girlie is cuddled to sleep. Frantic boy (who did enjoy the party and spent the last hour filling himself with sugary things he was only supposed to have a small amount of) bounces off the walls and eventually catches one at just the right angle to project him neatly into his bed. It’s time to relax. I swap my monkey paper cup for a real glass and say to myself “Thank God that’s over. Next year it’s two pizzas and a DVD.”

Kate Woodroffe blogs at hoveringclosetoinsanity.com.