I went to a 7 year old’s birthday party this week and I don’t know about the kids, but I had a great time! As well as being wrapped up like a mummy with toilet paper in the ‘Mummy Game’, I was told by one very worldly 7 year old girl that I was a funky mummy. Apparently that’s good. The party was held in a small community hall and I was impressed by how much old fashioned fun the little girls were having. BBC news recently reported on the increasing cost of children’s parties and in the one-upmanship world of Yummy Mummies, the birthday party is the biggest prize, but thank goodness this party wasn’t competing. I know the birthday girl’s mum and although there was a children’s DJ mostly playing Frozen songs, everything else was straight out of my childhood. There was a long trestle table full of classic party food; white bread ham sandwiches, cocktail sausages, little bowls of crisps and snacks and a nod to healthy options with cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks. The cake was handmade and the most popular party game was Pass the Parcel.
Why am I talking about parties and cocktail sausages? Because The Birthday Party of the Year is all that is being spoken about in my house. It’s M’s 15th birthday in July and apparently 15 is the new 18 and she simply must have an ice machine, a bubble machine, a photo booth, a champagne bar (what!), a chill out zone and a pop up nail bar. Oh and a party planner. Ok, so we’re keeping it low key then? The party has begun to dominate my life because it dominates M’s life, and the only thing she can talk about and think about is how she can make sure it’s a huge success and that everyone will talk about it for the next year. I’ve tried to add some sensible adult suggestions but they are not well received. M had initially decided on an event at a nearby venue, but as Sophie’s birthday in May was held in a posh hotel owned by a wealthy family member with a personal chef, she has decided it could be too easily compared.
Hubby bowed out early declaring that he and J were men and it wasn’t their department and I find myself glaring at him more and more as the date gets closer. Unfortunately, M’s school work is taking a back seat and we’ve had more than one slammed door as a result of me insisting homework comes before party planning, Instagram or discussing the party with friends. However, the big issue facing the party is Work Experience. Year 10 students are required to do two weeks in a work environment at the end of the school year and this was organised back in 2015. She was really excited to work at our local vets practice on reception, but now it could interfere with her party.
M has issues with being accepted and prior to coming to us was labelled ‘difficult’ and ‘uncontrollable’ with ‘attachment disorders’. In previous foster placement she had trouble making friends and if she did make friends, she found them hard to keep. M is intense and expects the same 100% commitment from her friends and when they inevitably don’t come up to her expectations, she starts an argument and dramatically unfriends them. This is a pattern that has followed her for several years and as she’s changed schools several times, she’s not had the opportunity to build long term friendships which has exacerbated the issue. Of course, M doesn’t understand the adult or psychological reasons behind this, she just knows that the party must be a success.
Understanding and knowing the reasons why the party is such an important issue and why it’s taking over her life is one thing, but living with it every day (it feels like every hour of everyday sometimes!) is a different matter. M wants control over the party and is very good at manipulating me (or just wearing me down!), so I decided to give her a budget which needs to include a venue if she wants one, the theme, equipment, food and entertainment and I’ve had to be firm about the no alcohol policy. I’ve been generous and have been saving for this so it doesn’t have such a huge impact on our bank balance in one go, but M wants to renegotiate the budget on a weekly basis and yesterday wanted to add a disco ball to the list. I’ve told her she can do chores and jobs to supplement the amount but somewhere along the line, that’s too much effort.
The party date is looming for the 3rd week in July and the venue is changing every week, however, M’s current choice is having a marquee at home. Being practical I’ve told her these things need to be booked and to get what she wants, she’ll need to make a decision and stick with it. If she hasn’t committed by the end of the week, then I’m putting my foot down as in the party world last minute translates to expensive!
I’ve given M a project this week to price up all the additional extras she wants and if she does all her homework on time and doesn’t get any detentions, I’ll take her to a party shop emporium on Saturday to get ideas for themes and costs. She was so excited that she jumped up and hugged me.
Watching the little girls last weekend doing a silly conga dance around the hall as the cheery DJ gave more and more ridiculous instructions made me smile. We all think life is simple when we’re young and I wonder if M had ever had a birthday party where the biggest excitement was tucking into jelly and ice cream. I know M’s complex and sad background and it’s unlikely she ever had shoes that fit or someone to ask if she was hungry, let alone a birthday party, so when she obsesses about whether she should have a bubble machine, I know I’m giving her happy memories and the ability to fit in and be normal.
Netmums has good advice on how to make your child’s party a success whatever the budget. Click here to read more.