How did you used to spend your Saturday afternoons before you had children? Browsing Topshop? Nursing a hangover? Some idle combination of the two? Either way, chances are didn’t spend them nursing a plastic cup of squash in some windowless room at the leisure centre.
Welcome to your new life, the one where your kids go to more parties than you do. It’s funny – children’s parties sound quite fun, until you actually go to one. Despite ticking all the boxes (they’re free and indoors; they kill an afternoon – which is about as much as you can ask from an event these days), there’s something strangely disappointing about them.
Perhaps you’ll be lucky and the other parents will be old friends you never get to see any more. But even then you’ll struggle to have a proper catch-up. For a start, it’s too early in the afternoon and everybody’s way too sober. And, because it’s impossible not to compare your children when a dozen of them are standing in a room together, occasions like this often end up becoming a kind of behavioural beauty pageant, one where you’ve brought the Bride of Wildenstein and all the other parents have Miranda Kerr in tow.
Except that you probably won’t know the other parents. Which means you’ll have to stand around making awful, sober small talk – inevitably about children, because that’s the only thing you have in common. And most likely these people aren’t potential new friends, but the kind of people who shake their heads and say things like, “I don’t know where they get their energy,” and “Kids, eh??” Often the chat gets so boring that, rather than endure any more, you end up hovering over your child like some mental helicopter parent.
You’ll also have made the terrible mistake of turning up starving. At which point you’ll proceed to eat your own weight in chocolate fingers and Mini Cheddars, ignoring the token bowl of carrot sticks the hostess felt obliged to put out. When she brings out the cake – some elaborate, homemade affair designed to make you feel bad for buying your own offspring a Fireman Sam one in Marks & Spencer’s – you’ll hover eagerly beside it, waiting for the moment the kids have finished and it becomes acceptable for the adults to pile in.
With any luck, you’ll get through it without your child having a benny because they’re expected to actually pass the parcel. In which case they’ll have one on the way home when you put your foot down about the party-bag sweets, having remembered that they won’t eat their supper and will wake up starving at some godforsaken hour.
Considering they only last about two hours, children’s parties often feel a lot longer. Which is a shame, since they’re often the closest you get to a social life these days.