Party Panics

imageI may be nearly 8 years into parenthood but I have to admit that, up until now, I’ve been a party avoider. Sure, my kids have had birthday parties but I’ve run like hell from the the whole invite-the-whole-class-to-a-hall thing. The very idea has made my blood run cold. I know that makes me sound like a bit of a party wimp but I do have good reason. My eldest and parties simply don’t mix.

Kids in their first year at school have the world’s best social life. Pretty much every one of those 30 children has a party and everyone gets invited. When those invites started rolling in for my first it was a bit of a shock. There was hardly a weekend when there wasn’t a party.

Luckily, the invites tail off in Year 1 but I didn’t realise that at the time and was a bit scared. You see, parties were not easy with our H. He couldn’t really cope with them at all. He has always been pretty anxious and the noise of 30 odd 4-year olds running amok in a echoing hall was just too much for him.

So, just don’t go, right? Well, that was the tricky bit. H was desperate to go and I was desperate for him to fit in. So we sucked it down for a while. And boy, did it suck?

We attended quite a few parties with him clinging to me, refusing to get off my lap, not even wanting the party tea. I had to deal with screaming panics over burst balloons and once had to leave after just five minutes because of a bout of intense balloon popping. He was also very wary of the kids’ entertainers and was known to cry desperately when watching Punch and Judy or even magicians if something popped up quickly and made him jump. It was, to put it mildly, a tad challenging – although he always said what fun he’d had afterwards, which I never understood.

After a while I simply hid party invites from H when they came home in his bag and sent an RSVP to say we were busy. If he spotted the invite before I got to it, I claimed we already had plans. Anything to avoid the misery.

So, holding a party for H when his own 5th birthday rolled round was not an option. Besides, not only would I have had H’s extreme anxiety to deal with but I also had a toddler in tow and was six months pregnant. So you can see why I decided against it.

imageWe avoided parties for a year or so and when H’s 6th birthday came round we found he’d calmed down enough to do smaller gatherings (without balloons) so we threw him a pizza-making party at the local Italian restaurant, which was a hit. By the time he was 7, he was a bit beyond the big party age. So, hall parties neatly side-stepped. Phew!

H can do parties now but he still looks like a fish out of water much of the time. It can be OK but it can also be a total disaster and is completely unpredictable, so he keeps me on the edge of my seat.

Then along came M, my confident little social butterfly. She absolutely loves parties. She has attended all of the ones thrown by her classmates so far this year and not only lets me dump her and run but she actively wants me to leave so she can get on with it without Mummy cramping her style.

M’s lovely little best mate is just two weeks younger than her and equally sociable, so holding a party for the two of them together seemed like a perfect fit. I won’t deny that I was still a bit anxious about it but sharing it between us two Mums reassured me a bit. We decided to hire a dance entertainer for our pop-crazy little girls. It would be a walk in the park, right? Besides, it is only two hours of our lives. How bad could it be?

The day before the party, I’m ashamed to admit I couldn’t sleep very well. I used to work in event management, for God’s sake. How the hell could a party for 30 small kids be keeping me awake at night?! But there were just so many things that I could see going wrong, and they were all out of my control.

imageMy biggest worry was how my boys were going to behave. I dreaded things going bad for H and him kicking off while I was up to my eyes in yelling kids and party bags. And then there was Baby T, who is 2 so is basically a marauding mini-monster and a total loose canon.

It didn’t start brilliantly. The guy in charge of the hall forgot to let us in and our already tight half-hour set-up time was suddenly reduced to 20 minutes. As a result we were up against it and frantically blowing up balloons to hang up when the first kids arrived. Said kids commandeered the loose balloons while I was busy checking them in on my list and, inevitably, some popped while they were kicked about (OK, I bought cheap balloons so I guess I had it coming). One popped right next to H, who stood in the middle of the hall – towering above the other kids – looking a picture of misery. I clocked that he was doing the lip and I broke out in a cold sweat. Big fat tears were forming and he was on he verge of completely losing it in a loud, embarrassing and very public way.

It is always hit and miss whether you can pull it back when H gets like that and you have to decide whether to go hard or soft. I made a quick decision to skip the sympathetic good cop and go in like nails. A quick firm warning in his ear, followed by swiftly depositing him with my best mate at the edge of the room to calm him down and the disaster was averted. I have never been more relieved, or more glad to have backup.

There were a couple more hairy moments (we all totally forgot to cut the cake for the party bags until the very last moment, which led to a frantic, giggling cake chain-gang in the kitchen) but it went really well in all. My husband was basically on T duty throughout and my cheeky little youngest was pretty good, so long as the party food kept flowing in his direction. Even H pulled it back admirably in the end and I was proud of both of them.

So, it was a success and we all survived. I still don’t think I could do it alone and I’m eternally grateful to my friend for sharing the burden with me. And our beautiful bestie birthday girls had a perfect pop-tastic day and were full of smiles, which made it all so worth it.

Happy Birthday, dear little party girls. I think I can say, from the safe distance of a couple of days, that it was a genuine pleasure and worth all the boy-induced worry to see your funky dance moves and your happy little faces.



My Funny Girl At Five

imageTomorrow M turns five. A landmark age and no mistake. Five is a stepping stone from dependant pre-schooler to fully-fledged little person, and my girl is well on her way.

In some respects I can’t believe M is only just five. She can be very grown up and mature for such a little dot. Mind you, she has always been ahead of the game in mental and emotional development. She was talking in sentences by 18 months and has hardly paused for breath since, constantly challenging my weary brain with her lateral thinking and intense questions.

If M doesn’t know how something works, she does her best to think around the problem. She comes up with weird and wonderful solutions but they always have a hefty dose of logic and clever thinking thrown in. If bees make honey, then surely flies must make jam, right? And if squirrels hide their acorns for the winter, where else could they possibly hide them but up their bottoms, to be laid like eggs when needed? After all, they don’t have any pockets.

She comes out with the most delightful phrases and ideas. These little glimpses into the workings of her dear little head have me in stitches and melt my heart in equal measure. But with such an active brain come some very challenging questions. I found myself having to give her a rudimentary explanation of how a baby gets into a lady’s tummy when she was just two, after a barrage of questions, facing her puzzled and dissatisfied little face when given half information. For now she is content with eggs and seeds but I can see her brain working on the next question. H, three years her senior, still hasn’t even enquired.

imageOne of M’s favourite books is called Evolution, a delightful, kid-friendly picture book about the earth and how we came to be here. It was a panic purchase after months of questions about who the first ever person was. I once spent an hour-long car journey struggling to explain how we evolved from monkeys in terms that a three-year old could comprehend. She went quiet for a moment, thought hard and then said “Hold on, are you saying monkeys turn into babies?!” The book has helped a lot with that one.

But the questions never end, from the easy ones to the impossible. She asks things I’ve never even contemplated. It can be exhausting and we were both delighted when school started and her world widened to include more adults that she can quiz. She is now driving both me and her teacher crazy, and I have someone to defer to if I can’t work out how to explain something. “Why don’t you ask Mrs X, tomorrow?”

M is changing so fast now, it is hard to keep up. The start of school was only a few short months ago but in that time she has smoothly shifted gear, moving from the small circle of her family to being a fully fledged member of the school community. She has a social network to be proud of and embraces every aspect of school life. She is a natural and has never looked back, lapping up each new experience.

imageAway from her best behaviour at school, my girl is certainly no angel. She is raucous and bawdy. Her toilet humour repertoire far outstrips that of her big brother, who she regularly has in stitches with her endless stream of bum, poo, willy and wee jokes. After an overheard throw-away remark about girls’ play dates being less noisy than boys’ (it is easy to forget that her little ears never miss a thing) she recently announced “Girls are quieter than boys, aren’t they Mummy?” and I nearly choked on my tea laughing. Our girl is the noisiest of our three by a county mile. She even beats her stroppy little brother. Her voice booms out like a klaxon. She may like princesses and all things pink when the mood takes her but meek and retiring she ain’t. She is fierce, loud and wonderfully forthright. She is a force to be reckoned with and sharp as a tack, running rings around us already.

Whilst she knows how to play beautifully with both her brothers, M has an uncanny knack of winding them up. With H, she knows exactly how to needle him for the most extreme reaction. Easily done with my melodramatic eldest but she has mastered the art beautifully. With the little one, she likes nothing better than to gee him up into a wild frenzy, making him more and more manic and running him up and down the hall. He adores it – and hero worships her – but it is extremely loud and always ends with him smacking into a doorframe or face-planting.

Looking at my little girl today, I saw just how much she has changed in the last year. Gone are the baby chubby cheeks and sticky-out toddler tummy. She is a leggy beanpole now and graceful, in a funny sort of way. She has always been our accident prone one, tripping up dramatically several times a day until relatively recently. Her knees were permanently pulverised and she has been to A&E twice after nasty mishaps, so I never thought I’d see her as graceful. And she still is clumsy really, but she reminds me of a baby deer now. Not quite in control of her rangy limbs yet, but with promise that she will be soon. And when she is, it is going to be quite something.

For all this change and growth, my little girl is still my baby. She bear hugs me as often as she possibly can and I can’t sit down without her clambering onto my lap, wrestling with the little one for prime position. She still misses me when she goes to school and that sometimes makes her sad, although she gets over it fast enough when she sees all her friends tumbling into the playground.

She has always made it clear that Mummy is everything in her eyes and was inseparable from me for the first couple of years. And much as new things have come into her world, she hasn’t lost that attachment yet. It doesn’t even seem to be remotely diluted, for which I am very grateful.

Like all good birthdays, M is celebrating hers for about 10 days, with various gatherings and parties, and she is buzzing with wide-eyed excitement. It is going to be a blast.

So, Happy Birthday, my dear little M. I am very proud of who you are becoming and I could not love you more.


I Need a Hero?

Do I really need a hero? It is a question I’ve found myself asking quite a lot recently. I blame Thomas the Tank Engine. Let me explain.

T is prone to obsession. I’m well aware that he gets that from me but it is bloody annoying. It means that only his current favourite will do and it drives me to distraction. I end up searching the house endlessly when he has absentmindedly put this month’s pride and joy down somewhere random and lost it.

imageRight now, all he wants is his Hiro. Hiro is one of the Thomas the Tank trains but you’d be forgiven for not knowing who the hell he is, even if you have had a small boy at some point in recent years. He is one of the pretty obscure ones. He is a dull and unassuming black and, as far as I can tell, there is nothing particularly special about him. I’ve never seen him in a single TV episode, or noticed him featuring in any of the books. Hiro is clearly an also ran, no matter which way you cut it.

But in this house, he is an idol. He is adored and carried everywhere. He is stared at lovingly and pushed gently back and forth in bed, as T drifts off to sleep. T has very little time for other kids his own age so Hiro is basically the boy’s best friend.

The weird thing about Hiro is that I have literally no idea where he came from. He just appeared one day in the train box, smiling his enigmatic smile. He isn’t a toy we’ve bought or been given and he is a different type of train to the ones that fit our track, so he is a total misfit. I’m guessing a friend’s kid left him here at a play date or he was mistakenly sent home from nursery in T’s bag. However he got here, he was welcomed with open arms and, now that he is flavour of the month, he is going nowhere anytime soon.

I think the love affair started because Hiro has an on switch and could chug along on his own, at least until T decided to put him in the bath that is. He doesn’t chug anywhere now, natch, but the obsession had already taken hold and T doesn’t seem to care. Hiro is still deeply loved.

Hiro gets lost roughly 25 times a day. He is usually stuffed down behind a cushion or under a sofa and only takes a short while to find but, until he turns up, T bombs around the house yelling “I need Hiro! I need Hiro!” He doesn’t go on to say that he’s gotta be strong and he’s gotta be fast and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight, sadly. But my brain does. I’ve had bloody Bonnie Tyler as an ear worm for weeks now.

imageAll this yelling for Hiro (and Bonnie’s endless wailing inside my head) has got me pondering the vast quantity of heroes in our house. It is literally stuffed full of them. We have a superhero box packed with the buggers. It contains approximately 8 Spidermen alone, H having been very into Spidey a few years ago. One of them is large and makes little Spidey quips and web noises every time someone so much as breaths on the box. It can be a little unnerving, hearing the web-slinger chatting to himself from a darkened playroom at midnight.

And then there is Superman. Now, he is a tad too big for the box. My husband ordered a Superman for H a few years ago, around the time that Man of Steel came out. I’m pretty sure that T was after a little one that he could hold in his grubby little mitt but my husband made the classic mistake with online ordering and didn’t check the dimensions.

Well, Superman arrived and he was literally bigger than the youngest two kids. I’m not joking. The Man of Steel was over 3 feet high. Utterly useless for playing with basically and only good for tripping over with alarming regularity. H was delighted. I was a bit less so.

This was around two and a half years ago and I’ve been unable to palm old Superman off on anyone yet. Which is odd. I mean, who doesn’t want a weird half-life-size Henry Cavill in full hero garb, right? He is literally never played with but when I recently floated the idea of sending him off to a charity shop, both the older two had a fit. So, here he stays, in our too small house, taking up precious space and not even saving anyone or using his laser vision or anything. Twat.

So, what with all this yelling of “I need Hiro” from T and all these hordes of superheroes in my house, to be tripped over and trodden on painfully, I find that I have come to the conclusion that I don’t need a hero really. No matter how much Bonnie wails about it in my head, I think we are pretty much sorted for heroes/hiros in this house.

In fact, if Bonnie is still as keen on heroes as she was back in the 80s, she is welcome to pop over and take a few home with her. I wonder if she fancies adopting a midget Superman while she is here…..