“Let’s have a party!” I said, with an enthusiasm that I now understand was naive.
“Yes,” said Sam’s Mum, ” something small.”
I must admit I don’t like the word ‘small’. I’m a BIG person, with a BIG appetite and a BIG mouth.
“Not that small. We want a day to remember.” I insisted.
“Yes, a small day to remember.”
“We’ll figure out the details later,” I suggested.
That woman has more wisdom than a whole host of Solomons. We ended up with a small-ish party and it almost killed me. I swear that next year we’re just going to show Sam a photo of a birthday cake and that’ll be it…
Here’s the 10 lessons I learned from Sam’s 1st Birthday Party…
The party is not for the child.
It’s for the adults who’ve survived a year with a child. Rather than being called a ‘Birthday Party’ it should be named a ‘365 days without accidentally damaging your baby party”. Sam had a great time at the do, there’s no doubt on that, but he had no idea what was going on and would, I’m sure, have been most surprised that the collected throng were assembled for him.
There will always be too much food.
This is something I find very tricky, I want to be a good host – part of which includes ensuring that no guest leaves feeling hungry. That said, guessing the size of appetite possessed by a group of grannies, new mums and their tots is an almost impossible task. I totally miscalculated, leaving a table that looked like my local Iceland was suffering from a power cut and had cooked everything in their freezers. Let’s just say that many sausage rolls found their way to a bin that day – totally untouched. Their sacrifice will always be remembered.
Any salad is too much salad.
Sam’s mum and I looked at the assembled masses of beige food and realised we needed more salad. So bowls of leaves were bought, dressed and ignored. Nobody ever touches salad at a children’s party, but it HAS TO BE THERE – it’s the law! If I ever get on Dragons’ Den, my big idea will be inflatable bowls of salad, that are placed on trestle tables to provide colour, then deflated to be used again. Genius eh?
People aren’t really up for alcohol at midday.
By the time the party started, I was so stressed that I quite fancied a drink – whether the sun was over the yard arm or not! The difficulty is getting someone else to drink with you. Grannies are no help in this cause, or granddads for that matter (stern looks from their better halves ensure this), while other parents are reticent as a mid-afternoon hangover (while looking after a youngster) is no fun at all. In this situation I found myself necking champagne making loud comments about not remembering the last time I drank during the day – to avoid any rumours of a perennial G & T with This Morning each morning emerging*.
*Note, this is a bad idea **.
**Note, I tried it once, it did make the show a lot more palatable.
Babies love boxes.
The sad truth is that no matter how amazing the present is, the baby will always prefer the box it comes in.
You could unwrap a fully-automated life-sized model of Disney World and the baby will ignore it and make a bee-line for the box it came in – to be fair this would be a pretty impressive box! In this situation, as your child impassively tosses aside an impressive selection of carefully chosen gifts, it falls to the parents to make ‘oohs!’ and ‘ahhs!’ on their behalf. I’ve never been particularly good at conveying emotion – I’m convinced it’s something to do with my Wigan-based upbringing – so I often find any enthusiastic exclamations can sound like sarcasm. In order to combat this I lift the tone of my voice an octave, which (if I’m not careful) leads to my sounding like an overly enthusiastic Mickey Mouse-clone exclaiming how lovely a teddy is.
God, this parenting stuff isn’t easy.
I am no longer a raconteur.
Before Samuel’s arrival, I laboured under the deluded belief that I was something of a gifted conversationalist. I put myself as somewhere between Clive James and Peter Ustinov as a witty chatterbox that might give Parky reason to resurrect his chat show just to hear my anecdotes. Of course this was complete fantasy, but I could at least tell a funny story – I thought.
At the party I realised that these days had gone. My conversation is now limited to Sam and sleep. I started chatting to a friend I haven’t seen in some months and within seconds I was recounting my son’s bowel movements.
“Yes, we had a rather IMPRESSIVE poo today. His mum and I were VERY pleased.”
To their credit, my friend nodded as enthusiastically as you can to a story of a baby’s motion. Within milliseconds the chat had moved onto that old fall-back, the weather. Stephen Fry needn’t worry, I won’t be taking his seat on the chat show circuit any day soon.
Agree the baby’s name in advance.
Before you break into a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday To You… announce to the crowd how the child’s name will be used. Sam’s full name is Samuel, a two syllable word, which fits in with the two syllable gap left in the fore-mentioned song. The shortened version ‘Sam’ is only one syllable and can lead to an awkward lengthening of the name to ‘Sa.. am” – which the pedant in me hates. We found a clash of ‘Samuel’s and ‘Sa… am’s during our birthday song which I’m sure Gareth Malone would’ve hated. Not that I’m a fan of Mr Malone’s work either, but that’s another story.
Name badges are great.
Remembering names can, at the best of times, be a struggle for us all. A kid’s birthday party can be particularly taxing in this department, where most people don’t know each other. We didn’t give out name badges, but I wish we had done. My mum famously would go through the name of each and every one of my cousins before she’d settle on my name when trying to attract my attention. We had a few similar incidents at the party, which I won’t go into a avoid any blushes.
Have a post-party, party.
Sam’s mum and I were so EXHAUSTED by the time the party and the accompanying festivities were done that we needed a holiday. That wasn’t on the offing, but we did treat ourselves to a bottle of prosecco, a takeaway and half a movie – a major party for us. As any parent knows, I say ‘half a movie’ because we never have the stamina to sit up through a whole film. Those days are well and truly gone.
Sam’s 2nd birthday will be small affair – tiny.
Next year Sam’s birthday will be on a completely different scale. I enjoyed the experience for his first outing, but from now on we’ll be going smaller. I just don’t have the energy for anything else. Seriously, a year is no where near long enough to recuperate.
The Out of Depth Dad.