I heard of an interesting concept whilst at a friend's house for dinner yesterday evening. A mum she knows, sick of dealing with the plastic crxp that gets given as presents to her children at their birthday parties, has taken to writing the following (or something like it) on invitations:
'My children have plenty of toys. Please don't bring any presents to this party, it's enough that you can come and join the fun. If you feel you really must give something, we have bought X a birthday piggy bank, and feel free to contribute up to £3.00'
What do you think? Is this a revolution in birthday parties, freeing parents of competitive present buying, children of asking their guests to hand over the goods as they walk through the door, and harrassed mothers of finding homes for yet more non-recyclable plastic toys every year? Or is it just ridiculously anal, controlling, kill-joy behaviour on the part of the mother?
Answers on a post card please...
And speaking of birthday parties, Boy #1 had his yesterday. I must admit that the day did not dawn auspiciously. My relief at the fact that for the first day in what seems like weeks I was not woken by rain spattering on the windows was swiftly dampened when Boy #1, overexcited at the morning ahead, spilt a cup of milk over our bed. Not wanting to fall behind in the laundry stakes, I threw the bed-linen into the washing machine and started it. Five minutes later Boy #2, who after downing his milk in record time, had rediscovered a half-eaten carrot that he had squirreled away somewhere the previous day, and then proceeded to eat too quickly, threw up. All over himself, the kitchen, and Husband in his heavy duty dressing gown.
Faced with another load of laundry and no empty machine to put it in, I then looked at a floor that also needed rapid attention, and remembered that whilst I had made it to supermarket to buy bread for sandwiches for the party, I had not remembered to replace the floor cleaner or the bleach which had run out the previous day when I was clearing up Boy #2's eggshell mosaic effort whilst baking the birthday cakes.
All this before 7.15am. (For future reference, at a push, Toilet Duck diluted with water will do the trick...)
After this rather sticky start however, when we finally got to it the party was a roaring success. The Ecology Centre at Holland Park did us proud again, and twenty-two 4 and 5 year-olds listened attentively whilst they were given instructions on how to pond-dip in safety, before proceeding to soak themselves, each other, and any adults foolish enough to be standing nearby. We then proceeded deeper into the woods and went 'on safari' looking for mini-beasts. Not a stone, worm, earwig, snail or spider went unturned, but all were returned alive (though perhaps not well, after their ordeal) to the wild after being thoroughly examined and exclaimed over.
Sandwiches, tangerines, and chocolate birthday cake were all devoured by an amazingly well-behaved group of children (fresh air is the best appetite builder), before the activity co-ordinator delivered his piece de resistance at the end of the party and pulled out a Royal Python for them to get up close and personal with. (It was amazing how many grown men suddenly declared themselves in need of a little fresh air at this point...).
As ever, I hideously over-catered, despite having halved the amount of food we took for the adults after last year's short-bread debacle, when we were eating it at home for weeks afterwards. (Scratch that - I was eating at home. And it didn't take weeks.) So, having learned last year that the yummy mummy brigade wouldn't go within sniffing distance of anything remotely fattening, I had decided to play it safe and simply take fruit for the adults to snack on.
For Pete's sake. Three bananas got eaten. THREE! We will be eating fruit salad for some time, needless to say.
And then, of course, there were the presents, unwrapped at home. (By the way, should you be going to any children's parties any time soon please please please fasten your card to your present with superglue. I pride myself on my amateur detective skills, but even so we always seem to be left with one present unaccounted for...) Plastic crxptastic, most of it, but of course Boys #1 and 2 were delighted with the haul. And despite the fact that Husband and I were less so, and that if I stand on even one more piece of tiny plastic from various Lego, Duplo, Transformers, or Power Rangers kits in my bare feet again I will not be responsible for my actions, I do think that a piggy bank full of coins just wouldn't really compare to mountains of brightly coloured 'stuff', for a 5 year old.
There's time enough for minimalism in their futures, I think.