How Survive a Children's Party - the Expert's Guide
I've always assumed that children would be content to celebrate themselves with the sort of pleasures I favour for my own parties - a shimmy on the trampoline, pass-the-parcel and a sagging sponge improvised in the vicarage oven. And, until last year, the formula seemed foolproof. Now, though, a pack of crayons swaddled in back copies of The Guardian and my unpredictable baking are deemed a social handicap. The kids and their classmates require the hire of doughnut cafes, paint ball pitches and ice rinks to mark the passing years. This has its advantages; no more scraping vomit from the skirting boards and no more multi-packs of cheese strings colonising my lager shelf. It's easy, however, to assume that your large cheque absolves you from the risks of other people's children en masse. Don't be fooled. Each time your child gains a year you are likely to age by three more, whether or not you farm the festivities out to professionals. But there are precautions you can take to minimise the impact on flesh and sanity and, here, following recent, raw experience, I've listed some of the most essential:
- Don't don white trousers for the occasion then spend the morning performing essential autumn tasks in the compost heap. And recruit someone wearing darker clothing to operate the defective plunger on the cafetiere.
- Don't leave nine children alone in bedroom with a flour-filled ball of half perished rubber.
- Don't wait until you are half way to the station with said flour-coated children before discovering that you've left your 8-year-old locked in the empty house.
- Dispatch your husband to the pub on arrival to prevent marital wear and tear.
- Don't fling yourself onto the ice rink if you are a middle-aged matron who has forgotten the braking procedure.
- Assume the air of a blameless passer-by when five of the girls in your charge lock themselves in the Gents.
- Try to avoid locking yourself in the Gents when a towering ten-year-old hangs off your neck and propositions you.
- Endeavour to be an invisible presence when your charges press the emergency button on the station platform.
- When losing someone else's child on the train home ensure that it's a service that contains empathetic ticket inspectors (thank you again Ugo and Immi!)
- Make sure that there's a bucket of lager and an aspirin supply waiting at home.
- Persuade your child to accept an Amazon voucher in lieu of a party next year (but secretly book your own skating celebration because the children are the only impediment to birthday parties).