Fairybread, lolly bags, tears and hysteria
A four year old kid’s party is the organisational equivalent of climbing Everest.
There are issues such as the theme, the venue and the cake. For the invitation alone thought must be given to colour, graphic, envelope size and font. And who to send the invitation to?
Organising D-Day could hardly have been more difficult.
On the occasion of my son Harvey’s birthday party we went with superheroes theme. Thanks to an early fascination with Star Wars the great force that looms in Harvey’s life is Luke Skywalker. Harvey would wear his Luke suit.
We were having the party in-house run by a specialised kids party company. But sadly their only options for a party host came down to a fairy or a clown.
A fairy wasn’t going to fly with Harvey. But the problem with clowns is that it puts off all the parents and kids with clownaphobia. It turns out that large shoes, red noses and colourful baggy clothes can be creepy for many adults and downright scary for certain kids.
Having sought advice about the extent and seriousness of this issue from a diagnosed clownaphobe, there was nothing for it but for Harvey to have to live with a fairy.
Should we do competitive games? They are fun and appear to be the natural activity of a four year old party. But the problem is that much of birthdays is about letting your beloved child know that this is particularly his special day. And with games comes the certainty that your child will not win many or any of them, denying him his birthday entitlement.
I well remember attending one party which was based on a series of beautifully planned games, only to witness the birthday girl progress from grumpy to teary to downright hysterical as each game completed without her taking home the chocolates. This in turn gave rise to the parents, beleaguered with embarrassment, working the room with the intensity of a politician at a convention desperately imploring the guests not to think worse of them as a result of their daughter’s behaviour.
In the midst of what is already an ocean of stress this is a fate to be avoided. We decided against games.
While competitive games can be avoided through a professional fairy face painting, bubble blowing and balloon twisting, nothing can be done to avoid the real nemesis of a kid’s party: sugar.
To not have fairy bread, fizzy drinks and chocolate birthday cake is simply to deny the kid a birthday. It would be easier to ban pies at the footy. And a lolly bag provided to each child on leaving the party is now a social contract as fundamental as taxation.
Of course it is scientifically proven that the energy created by twenty-five four year olds is much greater than the sum of its parts. Add sugar to this equation and the result is a force of nature that if harnessed would power Manhattan for a week.
Surviving this maelstrom goes to the heart of the four year old party experience.
Our party started well. Despite the confines of fairy versus clown, to our delight, the party company made its first attempt at a superhero party. Superman (or more accurately Superwoman) boldly painted Spiderman and Batman faces with a choice of colours.
Yet this delight was felt with the pensiveness of the condemned man eating his last meal. The sense of the impending cyclone was palpable.
And as the sugar took hold the storm hit. Kids running headlong into walls. Soda being poured onto the couch. Two children literally trying to pull their arms off.
As the mayhem continued there was only one safe harbour for the besieged parent: alcohol.
The louder the kids screamed, the more we clutched our glasses. As each tantrum erupted I would gulp another gulp. If sugar was going to over-energise the children’s brains then champagne was going to keep ours calm.
It may not be pretty, but the numbing haze eventually helped usher one child out of our house after another. When it’s all said and done a four year old party is fundamentally about survival.
With the party over we began the clean up. The carnage was everywhere. But a glass of bubbly helped that process too.
Eventually the day concluded. The kids were in bed with the overdose of sugar causing them to twitch like a faulty fluorescent light. And we were on the couch with the vacant look of humans who had simply experienced too much.
And yet despite its intense ache, the truth is we would do it all again. Because the four year old birthday party is an occasion that defines childhood and parenthood alike. It is an event that really matters.
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