#8: The “Parental Supervision Required” Party Years

#8: The “Parental Supervision Required” Party Years
7 minutes to read

My husband and I are surveying the festoon of birthday party invites that Mouse has received. I’ve got the Facebook Events tab open on my screen, he’s in charge of snail-mail and the calendar. This is how we’ve opted to spend our bloody date night and I’ve delayed opening the wine so that I can tackle the admin with a clear head. 

“That one will be good, they’re both high earners.”

“Are you alright to sort out an eye patch and foam cutlass?”

“Who even is this child?”

Then comes our first inevitable scheduling conflict. “Shall we pick and choose, or back to back it?” my husband asks. “Back to back, then we can get away with not giving her lunch or dinner.”

When you become a parent for the first time, you actively seek out other parents with babies of the same age, so that you can compare and contrast their temperament and development and be reassured that, however bloody awful you’ve got it, someone else is sometimes making a bigger hash of things than you. The problem with this is that you later get a three to four month stretch where every child on the block is celebrating a birthday, and not only do your child’s social engagements surpass your own, they also require you to be a PA, fashion advisor, chauffeur, body guard and first aider rolled into one.

Mouse is now three, so I’m hoping that next year we’ll be fully established in the style of party that allows the parent to vacate the premises. For now though, we’re still very much ensconced in the supervisory zone, and the top ranking destination for many parties is the absolute bastard that is soft play. Soft play centres are usually to be found lurking around the arse end of an industrial estate. Their title will almost always either contain the word ‘wacky’, and / or substitute a perfectly lovely ‘s’ for a ‘z’, e.g Wacky Critterz. The first time you walk into one, you’ll nod at your adult companion (safety in numbers – a cruel lesson to be learned) and say “Well, this all looks really nice doesn’t it? I read that they do Starbucks too!” You’re forgiven for being momentarily blinded by all the colours of the rainbow in PVC foam bars and plastic balls, but be under no illusion that these places are sodding awful for adults. Unless, of course, you’re a virile young father, because if you enter the fray and crawl around the upper tiers you’ll be rewarded with the sight of cleavage (boobs AND bum) of all shapes and sizes. Mums, for our part, absolutely go mad for a DILF. When a DILF rocks up at a baby group, we’ve struck gold. Never worry that no-one will speak to you, DILF, or feel intimidated by our collective beauty. You’re just fine here, stay awhile. Anyway, I digress.

A party at soft play is even worse than just going there to kill an hour because it’s raining and you’re sick of watching Minions. A party gathers together 10-15 other children and parent combos that know you, so you really need to not lose your shit – you’d do well to pop a bit of make-up on and neck some electrolytes in the car park.

Once you’ve sourced the birthday child and put a ridiculously oversized netted bib on your own child for identification purposes, they’re let loose. But you can’t fuck off to the integral Starbucks franchise yet, oh no. You have to watch from the sidelines and make sure that your child is Settling In, and isn’t being maimed by the bigger kids, or getting stuck at the top of a slide.

Then, and only then, you may invest 40% of your attention to the task of getting in amongst it with the other parents and catching up with whose child can do what.

In one such soft play party instance, a mum I recognise from The Circuit but don’t actually know very well is stood next to me with her proper camera – no quick smartphone snaps for her. I realise that I ought to stay in this position because then I won’t feature in any of her shots. “This is a great setup isn’t it?” she says. “It’s just so nice to have a little bit of a break while they play.” She glances down at Moo, wriggling about in my arms. I glance down at Moo, wriggling about in my arms, then back at her. Shit the bed, you think this is a break? If it is, then I’m going to require a cash ‘n’ carry haul of Kit Kats as recompense.

A klaxon sounds and we’re onto Stage 2: Feeding Time at the Zoo. Round up your Critterz, wipe the snot from their faces and concede that their left sock ain’t never coming home. The food is brought out by an assortment of 16 year old staff. All the parents make a big show of tucking their children into their chairs and unfolding napkins, while discreetly eyeing up the wares. This particular party is like food porn, the parents have definitely, uncharacteristically gone for the deluxe package. I was expecting soft skips and primula-cheese-on-cheap-white, but I think I spy brioche over there with the hot dogs! Those chips look skin on and twice baked. That pizza base is most definitely hand stretched and I’d wager that’s goats cheese. It’s 4.30pm and I’m suddenly blinded by hunger because about now I’d be tucking into a Belgian bun. All the parents glance surreptitiously at each other…when is it acceptable to…? Right, her in the smock top at the far end is going in. I flirt with an abandoned carrot stick, migrate to a spot of dip, then throw caution to the wind and take a hoisin duck pinwheel wrap. OMG, soooooo good, I wonder what pudding is? Is it foolish to hope for a profiterole stack?

Based on the level of catering, I’m suddenly a bit giddy with excitement about the party bags. What’ll it be, what’ll it be? I’m thinking a decent book, a sweetie cone that I can eat in the car, maybe a small craft kit? I’m brought back to the here and now by the unveiling of the birthday cake – a three-tiered monolith of sponge and regal ice decorated to look like a jungle scene. If he’s into animals, his parents might have been better off holding the party at the local zoo, but never mind. We’re off to a farm for someone else’s party in three weekends time so it should scratch that itch. Two renditions of happy birthday later (the dad didn’t hit record the first time), and it’s time to scoop up your hot, sweaty, sticky child and force them to say goodbye to the birthday boy and thank the parent folk. By this time everyone really wants to leave, and the din of frazzled children and mildly shouty parents has made the whole thing feel quite unsavoury.

After a party comes an inevitable slump. It’s all been a bit much – too much sugar has been onboarded, it was very hot in there, the children get very excitable when they see each other, and so on. Your best bet is to serve a very low key snack for supper (Cheerios or something of that ilk) and then try to spin the whole thing in your favour by slipping them off to bed 15 mins ahead of schedule.

Then, with a lurch, I remember the hastily botched together present that I’ve given the birthday boy. It’s not a BAD gift but it is from my stockpile rather than specifically chosen with him in mind. I hope he’s into Alvin and the Chipmunks, or we risk not making the cut next year.

-SJW June 2016

A Cornish Mum

 

35 Comments

  1. June 10, 2016 / 11:47 am

    I was in stitches of laughter reading this! We are nearing the end of party season for our eldest, but it is about to begin with my youngest. I’m going to start putting together a party present stack… that is a great idea! Much less stressful. Fab post #PicknMix

    • June 10, 2016 / 12:05 pm

      Ah thank you for the feedback! I find after about 6 of them you can get quite jaded by the whole thing but I guess it’s a taster of when they’re older and their social plans completely dominate your weekends. Age 0-1 is best and then we’ve got no hope ???? x

  2. June 11, 2016 / 9:41 am

    Hilarious, love the sticking with the photographer tip so you’re not in any shots. 😉 Haha. #justanotherlinky

    • June 11, 2016 / 9:46 am

      A tried and tested avoidance method ???? thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed it x #justanotherlinky

  3. MUd Cakes and Wine
    June 11, 2016 / 12:10 pm

    Ha ha ha the joys of parties, then the do you leave them decisions happen ???? # justanotherlinky

  4. June 11, 2016 / 5:38 pm

    Oh my goodness me, our twins have had a birthday party pretty much every weekend since starting nursery and it’s so expensive! Thanks for linking up to the #BinkyLinky

    • June 11, 2016 / 6:52 pm

      I know – I can’t imagine what it’s like with twins as everyone must feel as if they need to invite both. Since I wrote that piece we’ve had another 3 invites, it never stops 🙂 thank you for reading and having me on your link.

  5. Nige
    June 11, 2016 / 9:26 pm

    It seems to be invite after invite for us too thanks for linking to the #binkylinky

  6. rightroyalmother
    June 12, 2016 / 8:01 am

    Excellent post – so funny! I love your writing. NG is three next month and we have a picnic planned on a Sunday. But if it rains all sodding day (like today) it will be soft play. I will apologise to everyone in advance and then probably leave, safe in the knowledge there are plentiful adults and covered with the nearly valid excuse that I have to ‘go and see to the cake’. X

    • June 12, 2016 / 10:19 am

      See to the cake / check something with staff / sort out a special dietary requirement / fetch a plaster / settle the bill…if you play your cards well you can pretty much excuse yourself from the whole pitiful affair. We’re soft play bound today ???????????????????? Thank you for reading and commenting love ????

  7. June 14, 2016 / 9:26 pm

    Fab post – children have a must busier social life than their children! I know mine do haha!! Thanks for linking up to #justanotherlinky xx

  8. June 17, 2016 / 5:40 pm

    Love how you write! A great funny post 🙂
    Thank you for linking up to #justanotherlinky

  9. July 1, 2016 / 8:47 pm

    Soft play is the work of the devil. Crawling around through drool, escaped urine and molecules of shit whilst desperately hoping your child is neither the bully nor the victim and avoiding the far too old hooligan children racing through the gaff with evil intent.

    • July 1, 2016 / 8:55 pm

      Oh I HATE it. For the eldest’s third birthday it pissed down all day so we had to concede defeat on the planned zoo trip. Her back up choice – soft play. I pretended to be feeding the baby for 90% of that visit and let my husband take one for the team. Vile, heinous outlets! Thank you for reading ????

  10. July 5, 2016 / 10:20 am

    I helped supervise at my nephew’s 4th birthday at soft play. The worst part was trying to make polite conversation with the other parents whom I’d never met and who clearly didn’t want to be there either. The highlight? Mistakenly telling one mum her husband kinda looked like a weirdo. Whoops! Chronic foot in mouth there. I think I have 1 more year of birthdays before I need to worry about attending my own son’s friends’ parties.
    #chucklemums

    • July 5, 2016 / 11:35 am

      Hahaha you didn’t! I assume you didn’t know he was her husband when you said it? Genius. Did you quickly slope off to the kitchen to “check on the cake”? Brilliant. Thank you for reading for #chucklemums x

  11. July 5, 2016 / 12:18 pm

    I’m SO not looking forward to the party stage, since it will force me to be awkward with strangers and spend lots of money on presents. The Popple is only one, so we haven’t had many party invites so far. It’s probably a bit silly to have a big party for a one-year-old anyway, since they can’t really do that much yet and are just as happy to play with a plastic bag or toilet roll tube. #chucklemums

    • July 5, 2016 / 3:10 pm

      I reckon you’re safe until Popple hits 3, then you’ll be struck with the deluge of them and have to interact with people you don’t know! Parties pre-3 tend to be for the benefit of the mums anyway, so enjoy those ones ???? thank you for reading! X

  12. alisonlonghurst
    July 5, 2016 / 12:44 pm

    A brilliantly funny post. Sums it all up really! There’s so many funny bits…I love your description of feeding time, hilarious! Alison x #chucklemums

  13. July 5, 2016 / 3:59 pm

    Really enjoyed this; much more than I enjoy a soft play party! We’ve not had to go to *too* many – two year olds don’t really need parties. I’m reckoning three is going to be the biggun. Thanks for coming back to link up with #chucklemums 😀

    • July 5, 2016 / 4:02 pm

      3 is the dawn of the party parent whore…everyone gets a piece of your weekend and your child will be intoxicated by sugar. Gird your loins!

  14. July 5, 2016 / 9:24 pm

    I love all your observations- total class! Yes Soft Play centres are always in the arse end of an industrial estate (with virtually no parking ) and double yellow lines everywhere else! Loved your conversation about parties with your husband! Seems like the better off ones always do the lamest parties! We’re at the stage of dump and go now but did our fair share at the hellish party coal face! very funny #chucklemums

    • July 5, 2016 / 9:28 pm

      Just laughed my head off at ‘coal face’! When do I get to dump and go? 4….?!

      • July 5, 2016 / 9:33 pm

        Yeah about 4 unless you have a go walkabout child (then you’ll be requested to stay) or if you have a leg clinger that can’t be manually removed – otherwise you’re good to go – did you see what I did there (soz)! x

        • July 5, 2016 / 9:53 pm

          The pun got buried in a wave of sadness, for I have a leg clinger of epic proportions ???? All hopes dashed!

          • July 6, 2016 / 12:01 am

            …he owes me big, this weekend I’m taking both children to a party for the eldest while he gets to run around some countryside!

          • July 6, 2016 / 9:44 am

            Oh no – not another running Daddy – we’ve got one of those, he did Rock Solid earlier this year – no need! Taking both little ones to SP party – when converted into prizes equals a fascial and mani (i just looked it up) x

          • July 6, 2016 / 9:59 am

            Rock Solid sounds savage…! Mine does marathons but very ‘kindly’ said he wouldn’t do one this year as we had our second baby and ergo have rather a lot on…! I do escape every 3 weeks to get my nails done (aforementioned hanging basket pink!) and I do drag out the walk home sometimes ???? Good research skills! Glad they have consistent wifi in the village, haha x

  15. July 6, 2016 / 12:02 am

    Make sure you’re up to date with your multi-vitamins this week ???? Good luck – I’ll cross my fingers for decent chicken nuggets for you. Thank you for reading ???? x

  16. July 8, 2016 / 2:18 pm

    It always such a disappointment when the party bags are crap. #chucklemums

    • July 8, 2016 / 2:20 pm

      Which they are, more often than not.

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