My son turned 3 in January. This year I decided he was old enough to appreciate a party thrown in his honour and since his highly theatrical sister usually tries to steal the attention away from him on most other occasions, this would be the perfect opportunity for him to take centre stage and be the star for a day. The problem with this unfortunately though is that my husband and I have never so much as hosted a dolly’s picnic serving air and water never mind a full blown sandwiches and cake affair with actual people, we were daunted…ok petrified.
My son’s two main passions were trains and bouncy castles and since the likelihood of taking a number of sprogs to see a blimmin great steam engine and returning with the same number was very slim, I decided to go with the bouncy castle option. I booked at the local leisure centre, paid my deposit and hoped for the best. I put the party out of my mind then and concentrated on Christmas until 2 days before the kids broke up for their nursery school holidays, when it dawned on me that I had not sent out the invites.
In a panic I handed a packet of invitations to his nursery class teacher and suggested she give them out to whichever kids he plays with, then called up all my friends and relatives with children of the same age and prayed that after they had finished grumbling about the lack of notice they would come. January 3rd arrived too quickly and I had still not received any official replies, I was a disaster at party planning already!
Two days before THE day and I realised that while yes I had considered the catering, plates and trays to put them on would be handy. I went on the scavenge to my parents, aunties and in-laws homes and returned with more tubs and trays than a Betterware catalogue and a long list of items that had not so much as entered my mind let alone crossed it.
One day to go and I am holding the list in my shaking hand and tearing my hair out with the other. A Thomas the Tank Engine picture was decreed to be the only adornment suitable for my boy’s cake. I asked him if Thomas was not available in the shops would he like another character (thinking Teletubbies, Spiderman …) to which he sweetly replied “ I love Thomas the best but I can have Percy or James”. I had searched four supermarkets before I located Thomas and then headed into town in search of gifts which proved an even worse headache as again, all he wanted was trains; of which he had received a ridiculous amount from Santa and relatives. I finally settle on a Thomas juice cup, Underground Ernie DVD and a musician set (note: I have now discovered that Musician sets are for other people’s children only, trust me).
At home I begin baking, which if my Mum asks includes fairy cakes, chocolate crispie cakes and sausage rolls. In truth I bought all but the pizza fingers and chicken nuggets ready made and just transferred them to foiled trays and cellophane; for the best believe me because my pizza fingers came out looking like something seagulls would pass up.
Birthday arrived and after a mad dash to take my daughter to Stagecoach (told you she is theatrical) Hubby and I found ourselves in our worst fear - Empty hall, Little boy with big eyes looking for friends who had not come. “Come on babes, lets go jump on the castle,” I said as he put his little hand in mine and forlornly climbed up. After a few half hearted attempts at fun, my poor boy clambered sadly down. Wracked with guilt I followed him. Then HALLELUJAH…We were confronted with an advancing army of people and I felt the relief overtake the fear as I watched parents and kids strip off their coats and shoes before diving in the ball pond.
The next two hours passed in a flurry of wrapping paper, pass the parcel and smiles. My food was devoured by all and choked on by none but the highlight for me was my little dude’s face beaming as I carried his cake, candles alight while the Happy Birthday soundtrack tunelessly filled the room.
That night as my little man wrapped his beautiful arms around me for his goodnight huggies, he asked “Can my birthday be just like that next time too” My face was still purple from the exertions of the day as I smiled and said “Yes Honey, I can’t wait!"