Almost every weekend for the past three months we have been wrapping, carding and ferrying off to birthday parties. Some weekends they are on a Saturday, some on a Sunday and some on both days. It's proving to be a gruelling schedule, and last weekend I came to the conclusion that we have officially been hit by the birthday tsunami - a force of nature which swallows your weekend whole before dragging you, your wallet and your own social life far out to sea to drown.
The social calendar of a kindergarten kid is unbelievable. I was warned about this by seasoned parents. They told me that kindergarten is birthday-central. Every kid wants a birthday party and every parent wants their little kid to have lots of friends, so from the outset it's the perfect recipe.
It's a fortunate thing to be in a position to throw your child a party and I know some people would love to but can't, so I don't want to seem overly cynical about it. And it would be a very different post if my daughter didn't get any invitations. When she had her birthday party in April she was in heaven; her school friends came, she had cake and lollies and presents. The presents from her friends were very generous and she received an enviable pile of loot. Most of the givers have been on the same party circuit as us since then and even though they will likely be on the receiving end at some stage, I'm almost certain their parents are feeling a twinge of financial party fatigue.
As an example, this past weekend Miss Partypants was invited to two parties. Gifts for the birthday girls were $50+ in total. Over three months that could be up to $600 - it's not been that extreme, but you can see where I'm going.
Getting your child to and from the party is another new experience. The party is usually two hours long - add 20 minutes travel either side and it's a sizeable chunk out of your day. As a result I have embraced the car pool. Some of the parents have formed a sort of Mum's-Taxis Combined and we take turns to drop off and pick up each others' kids. It makes a big difference to the amount of day the rest of the family has to play with. As a one-car family with a three year old, a 12-2pm party on a Saturday can knock out any other social options with one punch. We're buying a second car to combat the problem (well, that's not exactly true. It's for Hubby's new job, but it will help to have another set of wheels).
Once you've picked up the kid/s you then have to watch them inhale the contents of their party bag, knowing you'll have an overexcited pixie-on-crack to manage for the next few hours. Party bags are fascinating to me because they tell you a lot about the parents of the birthday boy or girl. While some parents are laid back about lollies, others are firmly in the 'no junk food' category and come up with some wacky alternatives. Personally, I'm a believer in one chocolate, a few lollies, some stickers and a toy, but then I've also been accused of putting lollies I like in my kids' bags (true - but who doesn't love Redskins?) and overdosing other people's kids on sugar (also true).
Last weekend a party bag came home with soap, a highlighter, one lolly and a packet of sparklers. I must admit I scratched my head thinking... so five year olds shouldn't have sweets, but they can have fireworks? Still, I have to give them 10 points for creativity and the kids loved them. We only had one minor burn, and NO cavities - good times!
I'm breathing a sigh of relief as next weekend is the first in months with no party to attend. I mentioned this to Miss Partypants this morning and even she was relieved, which just proves you can have too much of a good thing.
I wonder if we'll know what to do with ourselves?