I think I have just about recovered from the ordeal of my daughter’s birthday last Saturday, though I’m not sure. As usual she shared her birthday party with her best friend who has nearly the same birthday and fortunately lives next door. Being the controlling type, I was happy to host the event.
I knew that holding a party on the first weekend after the end of term might be problematic as so many people travel during the holidays, so I got the invitations out nice and early and for once and booked the magic show and bouncy castle well in advance. In my rush of being organised, I plumped for the best the supermarket had to offer, ‘pirate’ invitations.
After a week I’d received not a single response and nor had the mother who was sharing the party. Perhaps the pirate invitations for a girl’s birthday party had put the children off? At the Kindergarten end-of-year play I raced around as many mothers as I could to ask if they were coming.
‘Sorry, we can’t come, we’re away then – I never got around to replying to you.’
‘Sorry, we’ve got three invitations for that day already and can’t decide on which to come to.’
The situation got increasingly desperate as I’d got at least ten no’s and there are only fourteen in the class!
I drew in my breath. My friend said,
‘It doesn’t matter. A small party could be nice.’
My next problem was the cake. We have a Woman’s Weekly birthday cake book at home (curse that book!) and it’s my youngest daughter’s favourite. Over the past year she has spent simply hours poring over it, choosing her birthday cake.
‘I want a number 5 Mummy and I want it to be just like in the picture.’
I set out in search of a cake tin with a hole in it and miraculously found one. The only problem was that it was huge. I hinted to the fellow birthday-party-sharing Mum that I was pushing the boat out on the cake, but she was unfazed.
‘I’m afraid I’m doing a no. 5.’ I said.
‘My daughter just wants a chocolate one, with berries on.’ She replied.
Since there weren’t going to be many kids at the party, we decided on fairy cake decorating, party bag painting activities and a proper meal for all of them, shepherd’s pie. Meanwhile I was busy texting the only parents willing to come, saying ‘bring siblings!!’
The birthday arrived. My husband had dashed out to buy our daughter a bike – which always gets a mixed reaction from my girls. He put balloons all over it and led her into the play room blindfold.
‘Ta-daa!’ he said.
‘Oh’ she said flatly, not hiding her disappointment.
(However, she did, days later, say that her bike was her best present – so it was not all disaster).
Meanwhile, my entire focus that morning was on the cake. A gallon of icing and a entire shopping cart of sweets was being piled on. The birthday girl cried because she wanted to see it but wasn't allowed in the kitchen.
‘It’s not ready yet.’ I said.
Next one or two guests dribbled in.
‘Go and change!’ I pleaded with the birthday girl.
‘But your clothes are filthy!’
She went upstairs and pulled a heavy drawer right out onto her foot. More tears.
For a long time there was only one boy, but finally others arrived (one single one dressed as a pirate). By four, the afternoon was going okay. We did the party bag/hat painting, fairy cake decorating, bouncing, magic. Finally it was cake time. The contrast between the huge 5 cake and the small, round chocolate one was embarrassing to say the least. Mortifying is a better word. I placed a chair for each child to stand on at the table so they could blow their candles out. (Afterall – I wanted my daughter to at least see the cake after all that work!) but vanity was my downfall.
‘They’ll fall off those’ my husband said helpfully, but didn’t offer an alternative.
Sure enough, my daughter falls off the chair almost immediately, cracks her chin deafeningly on the side of the table – then my husband scoops the crying child up in his arms and shouts at me,
‘I told you that would happen.....you are such an ....!’
All in front of assembled, horrified mothers. After checking our daughter had not bitten through her tongue or anything awful, I flushed pink. I could have died there and then.
On the upside, at least there were not too many mothers there to die in front of, but enough. After long talks with my husband about loyalty and rowing in public, I think I’m over it now. So far this week my remorseful other half has bought me flowers and a new (second hand) bike. My reaction to it was not unlike my daughter’s, 'Oh'.
My middle daughter tried to console me. 'Don't worry Mummy, all my birthdays have been disasters.'
I think that next year we might skip childrens birthday parties and I'll suggest a cinema trip instead.