Your Child’s Birthday Party in Ten Stages
1. During the preceding week, you will threaten to cancel the party (and, in fact, your child's entire birthday) at least 172 times. The evening before - when a tantrum over not being allowed on the CBeebies app coincides with has-anybody-bought-the-mini-rolls? panic - you'll resort to making fake 'phone calls' to warn the other parents that the party is likely to be cancelled. Cue hysteria.
2. You will make too much food for the crap party buffet. Granted, nobody ever eats the egg sandwiches or the token vegetable sticks but you can't face displaying an entire table of beige carbs. If we're being honest, the kids are only there for the Haribo. The foamy hearts will disappear in seconds. The carrot sticks will not.
3. Parents are never sure if they are allowed to tuck into the crap buffet, so deem it safest to hover with uncertainty near the sausage rolls. There is self-preservation logic to this - the first child's party I ever went to I missed the briefing for rookie parents about it being the kids' food and piled a plate up for myself alongside one for my toddler. It wasn't until I was three bites into a cheese straw that I realised none of the other parents were eating ... the shame. The trick is to overfill your child's plate by 50% and then legitimately 'save wasting it.'
4. You'll unnecessarily worry whether said parents are having a good time. Has anybody offered them a cup of tea? Does she know anyone here? Why isn't the bloody Disney CD working? The reality is that no adult is expecting to have a riot - it's Sunday morning in a church hall supervising bouncy castle play and making small talk with a friend-of-a-friend's-friend, not bloody Glastonbury.
5. Kids in superhero costumes and princess dresses will overheat and become red-faced and sweaty (but no they wouldn't like to take any layers off). Instead, they will down a plastic beaker of squash as if they have spent a fortnight in the desert, before wiping sweat from their brows and charging back towards the inflatables.
6. "Happy Birthday" will start feebly at least twice before somebody has the gusto to sing it like they mean it. Colin the Caterpillar will make a guest appearance at this stage.
7. At some point during the celebrations, or shortly after, the Birthday Boy or Girl will have a meltdown over something ridiculous (somebody stole their yellow balloon and although there are four more yellow balloons they need that exact yellow balloon back or they will go batshit crazy). People will nod in agreement that they are 'just over excited.' You will then need to read out the riot act about 'not showing off.'
8. Cards and presents will get separated and you will end up back at home opening presents from anonymous benefactors. Having started off with the intention of writing 'Thank You' cards, you will soon realise you don't know which present you are thanking them for and end up sending a generic thanks via WhatsApp instead.
9. The Haribo sugar-high (which I recently read is mythical but I'm standing by or my entire childhood based on the legend of the Blue Smartie is a lie) will crash before teatime. The witching hour with zombified staring and/or whingeing children will prove painful..
10. Finally, you will eat leftover cocktail sausages and mini scotch eggs for tea and find yourself grinning at the happiness of your now-four-year-old who has gone to bed with Ninja Turtles stickers stuck to his pyjamas.
We're living stage 10 right now,
Happy Birthday Henry Bear.