Sunday, February 20, 2011


I have been, in as many weeks, to as many birthday parties.  The average age of the birthday boy or girl has been 5.   Bar one, they have all been held at an indoor play centre, aka the surface of hell.  One more, and I fear my soul will be completely destroyed.

And, eleven years in, I am probably what you would consider a veteran of the kid’s birthday party. I’ve seen it all.  Rides in Limos, swims with dolphins, Bowling, Shop-a-thons, Reptile shows and of course, Hungry Jack meltdowns.  Luckily, they go in cycles and in the not too distant future, I may very well be into my birthday party retirement.


Maddie, now 11,  is blissfully old enough for me to drop and run.  No matter what the occasion, I rarely need to stay and chat to the parents and/or get involved in the politicking at school.  Unless they want to discuss her insanely good looking teacher.  Then I might stay a few extra minutes.


She was however, the child I had to cut my teeth with at Birthday Parties.

The very first party she ever got invited to was to that of the little girl of the coolest couple at the kindy.  I wanted desperately to be friends with them. She was a model, he was, well, I don’t know what he was, but he too was disgustingly good looking and they were the hipsters that while polite, were untouchable.  Then came the invite to their house for their daughters party. 


I turned up early.  And first.  Not knowing a soul.  It’s pretty much how I left. First, early and not knowing a soul.  Every time the hot models spoke to me it was like I had some weird speech impediment and could only respond with weird monosyllabic answers.  Like “Dirt” or “Crud”.    To be fair, it was a weird home party where no one really seemed to be speaking to each other much.   The clown was fun though and I hung out with her.

I thanked our uber cool hosts when leaving and was strapping Maddie into her car seat when I felt a weird pain in my groin.   And then on knee cap.  I looked down to see I was standing on a giant green ants nest and those suckers had moved up my jeans faster than St Kilda AFL club scandal.  My first instinct was to dack myself.  I mean, they were biting me and they were in my undies.  I looked around at the quiet street, saw it was all clear and ripped my jeans down.  That’s when I heard this “Bern, you’ve forgott”.  I turned around to see gorgeous father holding out a party bag.  There I was, standing in my undies, ferreting around inside of them, jigging up and down quietly moaning.  To his credit, he didn’t respond to the scene and simply handed me the bag and turned on his heel.  There were no return requests for play dates.


On our second shot we fared a little better.  In hindsight anyway.  Oh, except for the bit where we gave the entire Kinder class of 2004 pinkeye.  See, we were invited to a bowling party of a little girl in Maddies kindy class.   Maddie was complaining about a sore eye.  Said it felt like she had sand in it.  Plausible, we had been to the beach that morning.  Still, we decided to attend.     She probably touched every single bowling ball that day. Right after rubbing the shit out of her eye.  It was around about the third time that she came running over crying saying her eye wouldn’t stop hurting that another mother suggested she might have conjunctivitis.   We stayed for cake (which, by the way, I, as a parent, ALWAYS have a slice of regardless of the death stares from the other mothers) and went straight to the doctors.  Bingo.  Conjunctivitis.  Highly contagious.  Freaking A.  By week’s end, half the class were missing due to a case of Pink Eye.    Funnily enough, we are fantastic friends with that girls’ parents today.  It’s funny where you will meet them, but often it’s not obvious at the time. 


But you truly can’t rate yourself as a parent until you’ve had to endure a play centre birthday party.  Now you might have attended these play centres so you can catch up with your girlfriends and a mild case of giardia, but until you’ve sat through the two hours of small talk with the other mums and dads and occasional soul sucking disco dance, you haven’t really done it right.  Today was no exception.  Not only was the committee member mother from hell there, I also had to rescue kids from the Shark shaped jumping castle (complete with gigantic scary as shit teeth) as it collapsed.  Every parent’s worst nightmare.  Fortunately the play centres operators didn’t seem to be too stressed and simply plugged the power cord back into the powerboard.  Um, I’m sorry; WTF is it doing accessible to young kids in the first place??


Once that drama was complete, there was the obligatory head clash.  Can I just let you know now, your child will cry at least once during the play centre birthday experience.  Whether it be from falling off the stage when the party hosts blow bubbles just off the edge of the stage so all the kids go nuts and fall to their fates below, or simply because the big kids let a giant medicine ball loose from a ramp to mow down your poor unsuspecting child below.  There will be tears. And at least one child will have to be rescued by their parent from tunnel 6 stories up.   Heads up, do not wear a dress.  

It appears I will be repeating todays scenario at least up until Jack is 8.  Let me count that on my hands, shit, 4 more years?  I don't think my stress levels can take it.  One way to change that is to have the kid with perpetual pink eye though?   Up there for thinking Bern. 


Nat Peck said...

OMG I am scared. Have only been to low-key 3yo & 2yo parties so far. Bring on the pinkeye

Denyse said...

Words paint a thousand pictures .. Bern always with the embarrassed look of 'sheeeet' and WTF all whilst ridding self of the enemy ants.. Birthday parties can be worse than an ant bite or 7.
As parents we did most at home (that was the norm of the 1970's)
Traditional stuff- foods that is & games. Max time: 2 hours. Parents stayed IF they wanted..we encouraged ' no truly we are ok, teachers remember!) but be back ON TIME!!
The trend to out-sourcing the parties began w Maccas. They were the first & it was prestigious ..yes. Yes true! Prices v reasonable but so was petrol at 25c lit

Bern, you know I have to say, what gripes me about outside sourced party places is the SUPERVISION .. None.
I get anxious about kids' boisterous play, rules of height not taken seriously for rides, ..etc because there are FEW ,if any, parents who bring their kids & keep an eye (not pink) on their darlings.

4 more years .. Can you last the distance?
Oh, did you get any decent cake??

Lucy said...

Oh Bern. Whilst I write whumsical posts about my adoraation of my just turned seven year old birthday girl, you are here, keeping it real with the pink-eye.

And the ant jiggling in your knickers story? Utter gold. I just splurted coffee as I laughed "no fucking way" at my 'puter.

You are such a star. xxx

Jane said...

Wow. I think you've just put me off having kids for at least a few more years. Thank you. And I seriously hope the lolly bags and cake at least made these parties worthwhile x

Thea said...

Green ants in your undies?? YeEEeeeoooWWWWWWW

We have our first ever party at the bowling centre this Sunday, wish me luck. UGH

Annieb25 said...

Haha you have cracked me up whilst simultaneously given me anxiety as I remember the countless birthday parties i have hosted and attended. Now my boys are 17 & 19 and attend really cool parties - I am no longer invited. Life really does suck sometimes ;)

bigwords is... said...

The ants in your pants part made me laugh a lot!! Still giggling just thinking about it. We are just starting in our bday party journey. I don't even want to talk about. x

Green Mama said...

Oh god, play centres really are the bowels of hell. I hate them with a passion, standing there playing dodgeball with unruly children so they don't decapitate mine whilst their mothers sit on their fat arses letting me do the parenting. Bleuch. Pink eye to all.

KJ said...

Ahhh, play centres. So much fun. Not.

When Miss 8 was in Prep/Kindy/Reception/whatever-the-hell-you-call-it-in-your-state she was invited to play centre party and was dropped off by a friends mum. I turned up halfway through with her little sister who was 2 and I sat in the toddler area to watch her.

I did not know until a few weeks later that this was the decision that saw me cast out of the "School Mums" group. It seems I should have left my toddler on her own should I have wanted to remain part of the 'group'.

I made the absolutely right decision that day as there's a lot to be said for not being part of "The Group".

I did find out last week why socks are compulsory at play centres. After being talked into a ride down the big slide sans socks I no longer needed to ped-egg my heels. Ouch.

Ms Styling You said...

Sic 'em Rex ... how bloody hilarious. You're own very Antz Pants ad in the making. Could have had model dad as co-star.

... and the indoor play centre thing. I hate the smell. Unfortunately Mr 5 is very keen on this style of party for his birthday this year. I've got some work to do to come up with a more suitable option.

Cate P said...

So funny.... and so many repressed memories bubbling to the surface. Been there, done that, had the breakdown.
Same as Annie, mine are 18 & 16, the parties are awesome and I don't get to go. Son went to a 50s themed 18th the other night; poodle skirts, pony tails and boppers everywhere, and they were downing all manner of fun, yummy jelly shots, yoghurt shots and god knows what else shots.

Twitchy said...

Bern, you are seriously one in a million. The cyberworld is so blessed that you have chosen to blog your many mortifications. Surprised you did not include the pic of yourself as a teenage Maccas Party host, to ram home how truly therapy-worthy this topic is for you.

Ah, playcentre fun. Thing is, the kids love it don't they and as a parent, you want to see the kids and their friends happy. After all, if any day is about them, it's this. But then when you add them all up...

I had a playcentre phobia for some time after my child came home with what turned out to be a fractured limb. But then, he's pretty special! :)

Trish@Show and Tell said...

Bloody hilarious, Bern!
I've got my full quals in indoor play centre parties. I always feel like there should be some double-doored exit where they spray you down with a full-body shot of disinfectant when you leave.
And there's nothing quite like watching your kid disappear under 6,000 coloured balls to roll around in traces of snot, saliva, vomit, urine, faeces (and pink eye!).
All of that, plus grubby tables, grubby food and being forced to come up with 2 hours of polite conversation.


Maxabella said...

I'm relatively new to the birthday game, but we've done the Maccas, the fairies, 3 x pirates, 2 x reptiles, the learning party at the ABC centre (you read that right), 2 x princess and just the one play centre. I will never go back, never. I don't care if the kid is your best friend in the entire universe. I don't care. x

ClaireyH said...

I hope to never be seen at the play centre again. last one we went to included a big blow up thing, once the kids were in you could never see them again. two year olds coming out eventually looking concussed, eight year olds never coming out, loving the parent free roam they were having.

never again. NEVER.

River said...

My kids were little in the 70's, when birthday parties were done at home. Not having any parties myself as a kid I didn't know how to "do" parties, so my kids had very few. Mostly just a special dinner where they got to choose the menu, maybe a couple of best friends over. Now, my oldest has great parties for her kids. She just somehow knows how to do those things.

Naomi said...

Ah, so may memories.

I managed to take my son to a play centre party once while he had pneumonia. Hey, at least it wasn't contagious.
My daughter, who is still a rather refluxy child, spewed at a pool party. In the pool. I blame the mother of the birthday child. The sign clearly says no entering the pool after eating. I arrived just in time to see it. Lucky me.

4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle said...

Birthday parties fill me with dread. I remember at the beginning of the last school year I met one of the Dads at the front door of the first birthday party of the year "here we are, back on the party circuit again, good luck". Cracked me up.

letmestartbysaying said...

I audibly GROAN when I get some of the kids' party invitations these days. Don't parents know how much some of these places suck? How loud and annoying and filthy they are? I need a cool washcloth to the forehead in a dark room after most I attend.
Yesterday we went to one and collapsed into shock/nap the moment I got home. I'm still trying to recover. I wish my kids were less charming, has less friends so I didn't have to go as often as I do.

Jackie K said...

Ha yes, bringing back very recent memories. For complicated and various reasons I felt we had dudded our girls of a good party so for their 5th just gone we did a play centre, and to make sure they had a wonderful day and cos I was scared no one would come I invited every kid at their daycare centre - and ALL CAME. Cost us a fortune and the whole thing was too big and unruly and yes we had a couple of bumps and scrapes and a few tears, and the food was revolting and not enough. Never again! Best parties for little kids are at home but a lot of work. Worst one I attended was at a Hungry Jacks - the pits, crowded, smelly and overworked and unfriendly staff - though have to admit my kids loved it. Four year olds have no taste...

kasiabear said...

Big breath.. There are 5 invites hanging on our fridge.. May the force be with me!!

MaidInAustralia said...

I was the heavily 8-month pregnant mother at a play centre birthday party when my son got stuck in a ball pit with older boys jumping into it. Yeah, no play centre staff were on hand to rescue him.
Once at a Maccas party, the kids told me someone had done a poo in the slide. I sought out the party host, who sought out the manager who said: It wasn't their 'policy' to investigate potential pools in the slippery slide. So up I went again. (Note: I think it was chocolate sauce. THINK).
Finally, I never eat the cake because have you seen how much spit ends up on the icing when they blow out the candles?
I've had my fair share of party-induced-tummy-bugs not to mention Pink Eye, thank you very much.

A Beer for the Shower said...

Bad timing for ants in the pants. I have a similar story, the result of which is why I'm no longer welcome at the zoo.

Wombat Central said...

Oh, thank you for that hearty laugh over the antsy pants, complete with embarrassing situation with hot party dad. I laughed so hard I had to explain it to my kids. They, too, were amused. And all at your expense. Lucky you.

Those parties at the bouncy places are the worst. I'm willing to bet they NE-VER clean those things, for starters. I also cringe the entire time hoping for no major injuries. Ugh. Just got an invite from a mom to go to one today just for fun. Seriously? Not my idea of fun, thanks.

Mandi said...

My kids are 20, 17, 12 and 5, so we have done the birthday party circuit for years and are just starting again, have never had too many parties (one every weekend) and our playcentres are clean and the staff are fantastic!
I have had Hungry Jacks, McDonalds, Intencity (AMAZING playcentre) Fairy party bowling and other things over the years for my older kids, they have attended laser tag parties and lots of other different ones in between, have always had a blast and the places have always been clean and had good party staff.
Although we are about to see if anything has changed with the 5 year old just starting kindy... hope the good luck continues!

Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo said...

heh. I am over that thank god.

So now I can just sit back and point and laugh at my friends going through it.

The Cuckoo's Nest said...

Laughed a lot when I read this! Just did three parties in one weekend, and being a first-time mum to a school aged kid, can now totally relate.

Especially loved the ants and pink eye stories!

Oh, and I always have a piece of cake too. :-)

Mel x

Faybian said...

Kids parties changed sometime between our 23 & 20 year olds and our 7& 10 year olds to the at home dump n run to the external party where you need to stay there. I really regret that. Fortunately parents have grown out of staying with their children by the 10th birthday. We had a party at home for my 7 year old when she turned 5. I had to cater for the 12 kids we invited that all turned up and their parents who all stayed. Some were couples and some didn't even talk to me. Lucky we're on acreage, I was sweating and swearing under my breath halfway through that party. I went to a party at a play centre, the smell of urine nearly knocked me out when I walked in and eventually you get used to the smell.....gaarh!

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