I can’t believe that just a year ago I was blogging about my fears for my daughter’s birthday invitation worthiness. Would she EVER be invited to a party for someone who wasn’t a close family friend? And what did the ticks on her 4 year old dance card mean for her future ability to make friends? It was all terribly serious. It was kindy: we both had a lot to learn.
This year the invitations have been coming thick and fast, especially as it seems the ‘done thing’ to invite the whole class to parties in the first year of school. It also seems there was a freak, month long blackout around the beginning of 2006, as we now have EIGHT 6 year old birthday parties to attend in a month! My concerns have moved on from whether the invitations will come, to whether we need to re-mortgage the house to keep the present production line moving. Luckily Christmas now officially starts in October, so Westfield has no shortage of Disneyfication on offer.
Anyway, with all these social occasions locked into our calendar, Charming HQ has had to embrace a War Office vibe as we schedule who needs to be where, at what time, in which kind of thematically appropriate outfit. My husband and I regularly find ourselves in that ‘rock paper scissors’ zone; divvying up responsibility for taxi duties, sibling babysitting duties, and the all important clincher – making-small-talk-with-party-parents duties. Not that I begrudge chatting to other school parents – they’re mostly a lovely bunch. And, now that our collection of kidlets is turning 6, fewer and fewer of the parents are staying for a chat: a lot of parents choose to drop-and-dash from parties, using that precious hour or two to get something else done. Miss 5 is still pretty keen on me hanging around. I’m quite OK with that so far, as I’m still on the fence about when exactly it is age appropriate to leave your child at a party on their own.
Saturday, for example, Miss 5 attended a ‘Build-A-Bear’ party. 10 eager little girlies in their pinkest of frocks lined up at the ‘Workshop’ with wide eyes. At these parties, kids choose a limp unstuffed furry friend, stuff them (in a caring way) and select from a bewildering array of accessories to personalise their beary chum. The party girl’s mum had very generously laid down $30 a head for our bear making adventures, which is enough for a basic bear and a basic outfit (if you’re smart with your money). Beyond that, though, the sky’s the limit – as is the credit card bill. I had to say no to the $25 bear-sized iPad, for example, and the paw-perfect $15 roller skates. As Miss 5 has the negotiation skills of a UN official, she did con me into adding a couple of gadgets from the $5 end of the spectrum to her purchase. I didn’t mind too much as she and her friends had a really wonderful time, but all I can say is thank goodness I stayed! Had I done the drop-and-dash on this occasion, Miss 5 would have sauntered up to the counter and added a small fortune in evening wear and fairy wings to the Party Host’s bear tab. We may have had to add a pair of fishnets to the bear’s summer wardrobe and get her earning her keep on the way home (if you know what I mean…)
Speaking of which, has anyone been into Bras ‘n’ Things lately? I passed them whilst at the mega-shopping-centre that contains the Bear Workshop and noticed a snazzy school girl number on a rack out the front – all checked short skirt and ‘teacher’s pet’ logo. Are we really doing the Lolita fantasy thing in mainstream underwear stores in this day and age? But I digress…
Day 2 of our party-packed weekend found us in a local beachside park. The Host Parents had found God in their desperation to keep the rain at bay, whilst a mini tornado whisked Spiderman accessories from their careful positions on picnic tables into the waving branches above. The kids, of course, couldn’t care less about such trivialities and had a ball racing from one end of the sizeable playground to the other; they climbed trees, they swung off a flying fox, they consumed remarkable amounts of sausage sizzle for their tender ages.
OK, I’ll admit that on this occasion I did leave the park with a couple of the other parents to seek out much-needed coffees from across the road. I told Miss 5 where I was going and reminded her to hang close to the party table if she was in any way worried/bored/hungry in my absence. I suppose I was gone about 15 minutes. Plenty of parents did the drop-and-dash at this party, though, and this time it really had me worried! I was not especially fearful for the safety of the kids, mind you, but the sanity of the Host Parents. Is it fair in a big, spread-out public space to leave two adults in charge of 30-odd children? Or, do the drop-and-dash parents presume there will be enough other stayers (like Muggins ‘ere) to cover a manageable adult:child ratio? Is it, in fact, more selfish to be a stayer – in that the Hosts may feel obliged to feed/entertain you whilst you’re hovering over your child? Again, I’m not judging anyone here – just curious. What makes me a stayer and someone else a dasher?
Last Friday night we had a family bonding night at the same local park. We packed up a few sausages and threw together a makeshift BBQ to enjoy a bit of cool evening air and a beach sunset. The most amazing colours we saw that night were unfortunately around Miss 4’s eye when she smacked her head into a tap and did this to herself:
So, what if one of those party kids had had a similar accident? Did the drop-and-dash parents leave anyone with their phone number? Am I just a completely over-protective, over-analytical nightmare parent??
I’d love to hear about your own experiences as a party host or a parent of growing, independent kids? At what age is it OK to drop and dash?