27 November 2011

social commentary Sunday . . . 'the fall of the fun children's party'

Greetings all,
Many bloggers highlight children's parties - the issues of home/ party venue/ junk food served/ lolly bags/ general expectations around behaviour/ gifts/ games.  I always have our parties at home, serve a basic menu, do party favours & put on traditional games of pass-the-parcel, musical statues with a small prize at the end - you are NOT ALL WINNERS!!  I actually refer to junk food as party food, as that is where it should stay!! 
I've thrown dozens of chidlren's parties in my time & my basic set menu is . . .
sandwich platter (egg, curried egg, egg & lettuce, ham, ham & cheese, cheese, salmon, chicken, chicken & sprouts, chicken & avocado on wholemeal & multigrain bread, crusts on)
homemade sausage rolls, mini quiches & homeheated cocktail franks
fruit platters + bowls of chips, cheezels, twisties . . . laid out on a pretty table display.
Trust me, watch the parents chow down on the junk & horrible frankfurts!!
 I don't waste my time icing cup cakes, baking cookies or making meringues - one bite & the child is off again, remaining cake dumped in their drink.  Oh the humanity!!  I have seen more mess & injuries from a 5 year old fairy party than soldiers at end of deployment blow out. 
 party favours/ goodie bags ready to go, unnamed with extras for siblings or non-RSVP-surprises . . .
 I fill a barrel with mineral waters & juice, with names on cups, the key is minimal wastage!!
 We don't open gifts during the party, as i like my child to actually appreciate what they are receiving, slowly, after the hype & chaos of the party, not tear off the paper, look for a split second & launch into ripping open the next one!!  I also prime my children to not say "i already have one" or anything other than "thank you very much" even when i know they don't like Ben 10, The Wiggles or Dora - it's not lying, it's diplomacy!!
 involve the partyboy/ girl/ boss-for-a-day in hanging decorations (they LOVE giving direction) . . .
 little details are sweet but can really add up to over all cost . . .
 parties don't HAVE to have a theme, they can just be A Birthday Party!!
 I love confetti but good GOD it's a nightmare, it will stain when wet & you have to factor in the over protective mum who hovers & might know the friend of a friend of a friend whose child inhaled confetti/ balloons/ smarties/ popcorn/ air . . . be prepared for instant negative feedback at every turn (or do your research & avoid inviting that child) . . .
 i serve the cake 30 minutes before the party ends (drives me nuts when i arrive to collect my children from a party & the cake still hasn't been done, it drags on, flakey parents!!)  WORSE, when the collecting parents aren't offerd a slice of cake in a napkin to take home, sorry, that is party etiquette 101 fail, gimme a slice of cake!!
 My children are not spoilt, they share beautifully & they never ask for certain toys, advertising is wasted on them, but give one a balloon or God forbid a helium balloon floats away & it is on, i have never seen my children fight or cry over anything like they do bloody complimentary balloons, often in the car, on a highway, fuelled with sugar rage!!
Some party tips for twins - if both of my twins are invited to a party, they take a gift each, but i never expect a gift for each of them at their own party!!  No point in saying "no gifts" at a child's party, that's an adult concept or saved for children truly raised that way - sponsor a goat in Africa for them, they'll understand.  It's just a given you take a gift & something inexpensive or handmade is acceptable, children do value the thought too.
My son went to a Pokemon party yesterday, which i read on the invitation while confirming the house number already in their street - was he meant to be dressed up or give a gift in the Pokemon theme??  Too late.  As it turned out, the Pokemon innuendo extended as far as the invitation logo & stickers on lolly bags!!  Themes - nothing cuter than a bunch of 6 year old boys dressed as pirates following a treasure map to find gold, it's a lot of effort & audience participation, be prepared for uncooperative tears.  I have been to some ace parties in my time but they are really for the mum, not the child . . . not a fan of children under 3 having parties beyond family guests, unless they have a genuine gang of friends from preschool or mother's group.  My children don't have a party every year either, we are so often moving or in a new location, do we invite people we just for the sake of it??
I'll leave you with this party disaster gem: a few years ago when my son was in military preschool (regular preschool for 4y.o. on an Army base) . . . keep in mind my opinion on gift receiving diplomacy, now picture the gift unwrapping at a 'Come As Your Hero' party when one boy presented a plastic pirate sword gift.  Cue the birthday boy's mother: who announced loudly in front of children, parents & wide eyed excited birthday boy reaching for his new awesome toy "we do not do voilence in this family."  I actually thought she was joking & let out a very loud Mrs Crabapple from The Simpsons "ha".  Tension.  So i piped up, to break the ice "um, your husband is a fighter pilot, has he got plastic rockets on board??" & i could feel the other parents wry smiles.  Not one to stop there, i said "goodness, if it's not a plastic sword, he'll use a stick or make a Lego sword anyway".  The mother whipped it away & said it was going to charity.  Good times!!  FYI her son was the most fisty child i'd ever seen, so was she in denial or preventing more violence, whatever, her over reaction embarrassed everyone (but me).  The mother who purchased the sword is a sweet mild mannered school teacher.  Go figure. 
As a mother of 3 girls before i experienced the roller coaster testosterone ride of a son, i had no idea they could turn a paper bag into a machine gun & while i'd never give anyone a plastic weapon, as i'm more into creative & handmade gifts . . . this was such a shocking display of manners.  You save these incidents for later, as a Brady Bunch life lesson: calm explanation with your child.  When i collected my son from yesterday's party, he was drinking a can of lemonade.  He looked confused & said "it was a better choice than coca cola" bless his heart, he knows better.  I'd never serve cans to 8 year olds, i still don't allow my high schooler any more than sip coca cola, WHY fill them up on the extra calories??  Shouldn't the party atmosphere be enough??  Love Posie
All images from My Little Day in France, some cute party goodies in my shop too.


Felicity said...

Hooray again for another 'spot on' social commentary.

As a newly-minted parent it's been a complete eye-opener for me and I'm already over 'super-hyped' parties.

Just today we had a discussion over lunch sharing our opinions on the appropriateness or otherwise of one of the girls' 13yo friends who was about to host a sleepover party at the Sheraton in Noosa....the child in question is as sweet as a peach and I'm sure it wasn't actually her idea to have such an elaborate 'do'.

The other thing that I'd like to put forward is how often should children have a party? Every year?
We do every year up to 6 then 10, 13, 16, 18, 21.

Can't wait to read the responses to today's post.

Lynley said...

Names on drink cups! Best idea ever. I am so with you about minimising the waste - the "one-bite" scenario would be very depressing if I had spent hours on the icing ... good thing I don't :)

Jan Maree said...

I am so glad that my boys have reached the teen years and the current favourite sort of party is simple food - sausages, chips and cake (you are lucky if they serve salad but they are unlikely to eat it) favourite activity is talking, singing, wii dance (apparently there is a hysterical video of my son in existance) and that's about as stressful as it gets, so far, and these are the 16th's! Thank goodness!

Tania McCartney said...

OMG - are you me!?! So agree with all you had to say EXCEPT the theme thing and the parties for mum thing... sorry, but I love a theme!

And yes yes, I'm one of those mums who loves kids parties so very much, I thrill over every detail - and of course, photograph it all to the hilt. I love to bake, craft, style and shoot, so a kids' party is total bliss.

Sure, the kids may not notice every teensy detail, but that doesn't matter - they do appreciate beauty and effort, even subconsciously, though I have spent the past few years NOT making food from scratch - making it easier on myself - and I must admit, I now wouldn't have it any other way!


IndigoElephant :: Sash said...

Parties are so on my mind right now with my baby to turn 3 in less than a week. We are having a small party, at a local park, if the weather plays nice, and it'll be for breakfast as Mummy hasn't been very organised and people have busy days this time of year!! It's much easier to do healthy party food for breakfast I've realised, but will have to see how it pans out.Wish me luck, it's going to be a crazy week!

Maxabella said...

Wah! I can't help but feel that some of this post is aimed at me? Now, Posie dear, you know I've always maintained that the decorations, food and over-styling is all for me! The cake and games and being the special one is all the kids really care about. So I agree with you wholeheartedly, provided you let me keep doing what I love!!! x

ClaireyHewitt said...

I am in the midst of planning a party that was getting out of hand, mainly as I was too scared to not invite some people.

However I am not having any games at all, there will be a little bit of craft suitable for three year olds...coloring, sticking etc, and there will be fairy music playing non stop.

The cake will be served 20 minutes before the end, as I want them all to take off on time! And, I have only made it an hour and a half.

My big girl is desperate for a Witches Ball, she has been planning it for months, she is enjoying the planning more than anything, it is still weeks away but she draws bats and ghosts and posters every day, I can't wait to have the room dressed up for her.

However, apparently there are now financial packages...as in LOANS you can take out for a Childs party. True. Can you imagine???

ally said...

Having just hosted 3 parties in the last month I feel on top of this one!
We don't have a theme - too hard.
Lots of old fashioned party food - fairy bread, sausage rolls, fruit cocktail savs, popcorn, cheezels and jellies (we love a good layered jelly)
We bought water bottles and named them this year - cheaper than cups(!)
And I desperately hope my kids grow up to be as polite as yours!

posie blogs Jennie McClelland said...

My husband just said i sound righteous, but that is the point of Social Commentary Sunday, it's my blog with an opinion. I also have to put on most of these parties when he's away, so he misses out on the effort - thus me keeping it to a minimum & let the party atmosphere take over, not me slaving over a huge selection of food when it can be simple, children like simple done well!!
I just hope this post helps you with a few tips on games, opening gifts & serving cake. Stay strong, it's your party, doesn't have to be like anyone elses!!
As for Claire's information on children's birthday party loan, my jaw is on the floor!!
& Mrs Maxabella, was not thinking of you at all, you do great parties with serious gusto, you back it up with the most fun of intentions.
Tania, ditto, you do themes brilliant, my point was that the theme on an invitation & lolly bag - that doesn't create a fully themed party in my book. YES i'm judgemental. I put a lot of effort into my children's parties so the day runs happy & fun, not stressed out of my eyeballs & . . . when my children are lucky enough to be invited to someone else's party, i send them dressed suitably with some effort & a thoughtful gift. Love Posie

Sally said...

My man and I are planning a birthday party for our daughter who is about to turn 3. She, like my son, has had a birthday party every year. That is because we don't have family who live near by so we invite our family friends instead ... so it is sort of like family. This will be her first party party because it isn't actually on the day, rather the Sunday before, and their are children coming that I haven't actually met as they are her friends from day care. She is so excited. Like SO excited. It does have a theme... much to my disgust - she wants a Dora party. Urgh. Not being into commercialism I'd rather a different theme but as my partner pointed out it is her special day so we're just going with it. I've bought the Dora plastic party favour bags and was thinking that I would print out name tags for the paper cups with pictures of Dora on it. Her dadda is going to make a pin the tale on Boots game. Our plan for food is pretty basic (in my opinion), fairy bread, cup cakes (she loves them), pikelets, chips & lollies. There will be BBQ sausages too.
It would seem that we're "old fashion" having the party at our home. Our children seem to get invited to parties at indoor play centres or fast food restuarants. I like the idea of having a simple party at home.
... and yes... the party feel should be enough - these events get very expensive very quickly!!!

posie blogs Jennie McClelland said...

Oh yes the good old sausage sizzle - i just can't do a BBQ & run a party at the same time, but next time my husband is around at party time, he's strapped to the BBQ.
I've also learned a lot of lessons from being the baby in my family & watching how my brothers & sister put on parties. As we dont live near family either, it's ONLY friends & because i don't drink, i never think to serve the parents alcohol. Or tea & coffee - um, it's a children's party, i'm running it solo, i can't cater drinks to adults too.
Like i might poo poo your party, you can poo poo that i didn't set up a bar or coffee station. Love Posie

emma @ frog, goose and bear said...

I'm with you on so much of that, but just like Maxabella I need a theme. I find it easier to work within a theme and i do LOVE KIDS PARTIES. I am fully aware that kids don't need us to go over the top. They just need to feel special on the day whether that means their favourite meal for dinner or a cake with family. I am the first to admit that it's all for me. I have an addiction. I just love it. You have enlightened me re cake for the parents - I have been an terrible host - shall do that from now on!!!! I am new to the parities without parents though as most of my parties have been for kids under 5. I'm with you on the small numbers too and just family under 3. We do the same. I still go over the top though ;) We all have our 'thing' and kids parties are one of mine!

Kerry said...

Ah those were the days. I once had a Roald Dahl kid's book returned to me as being inappropriate for the birthday girl!

Cass said...

Interesting post, some things I am with you on - only family parties when little, my kids had their first friends party at 6 & 4 respectively. All our parties have been at home so far with typical "old fashioned" party food and games. I prefer not to have to entertain adults/siblings as well and much prefer the parents to drop their kids off but if they stay I don't cater to their needs. One thing I do disagree with you on is the opening of presents. My kids love seeing the present they are giving opened by the birthday child no spirited away by the parents. I know there is the hype at the beginning of the party and the present gets opened and then quickly discarded but my kids like to see the child open the present they have either picked out themselves or helped me make for the birthday child.

Bron said...

You tell them sister!!!! I agree on most things and am very like minded ...i just cave on the opening pressie thing but you are right there is very big potential for disaster.

Home un-themed parties rock!!!

Amanda said...

What a beauty of a post!! Love it!! I must admit, I enjoy planning a party with a theme but that is more for me than anything :) In saying that, I totally agree with the whole simple party at home thing rather than outsourcing everything and 'outdoing' everyone. I think kids these days miss the good old parties and party games we had.

Can't believe the 'plastic sword incident' - was she for real :) Loved your reaction. So glad you teach your kids about gift receiving etiquette too - so important.

another donkey design by kate said...

Great post, and thank you - you have made me feel so much better about my sons second birthday which is planned for in 2 weeks time. We have a theme - cars - and the only hint at the party will be the cars on the cake (it wont even be in the shape of a car!) and the red, orange and green balloons to signify traffic lights (which as my husband pointed out no one will get but me). Food - will be choc crackles, honey crisps, fairy bread and fruit - and it will be 98% adults. As much as I love looking at the beautifully themed and presented parties - I don't understand how they work when you have 30 + adults on a hot summers day in my backyard.
So thanks again - I don't feel like i am neglecting my child now! And i like the advice about opening presents after the event - great idea.

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