On kids’ parties: are you a stayer or a dasher?

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…)

A dress from the Build a Bear range (alarmingly similar to the one on offer at BnT!)

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?


31 comments for “On kids’ parties: are you a stayer or a dasher?

  1. October 29, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    October/November are always crazy birthday months. We’re in the middle of four kids parties in three weekends at the moment, and our boy is only just two (one of the parties was his too)! Seeing as he’s only just two, we’re yet to navigate this dilemma. I would imagine, and have observed, that it very much depends on the individual child, the type of party, and the relationship you have with the host parents. I think it’s fair to assume that there will be at least a couple of other parents staying because the closer friends of the parents will naturally stay to help (by which, I mean chat).

    My hot tip for presents is to buy a boxset of books and divide them up, adding a little something as you go (stamps, craft things, and the like). I’m still working my way through a box that had various classics like Fantastic Mr Fox and The Worst Witch in it.

    Best of luck in the trenches!

    • This Charming Mum
      October 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      What is it about October/November eh? Your present idea is great though! Just this morning I noticed Australia Post have a lot of 4-book-packs on sale, by well-known authors. And crafty/stationery stuff always goes down well with kids. Good thinking!

  2. Enid Bite'Em
    October 30, 2012 at 8:44 am

    I think it depends … I’m not sure I’d be ready to ‘drop and dash’ unless I knew the parents and probably only when he’s older… Fred had his 5th birthday party (at our home) a few months ago … we had two ‘drop and dashes’ – one from a friend, who had other small children, and whose daughter knew us well – it was no big deal. The other from someone Fred had only just met – the mother had only just met us (lucky for her we’re nice safe people :P) … I asked for her mobile no. as she was leaving … she seemed surprised I would even ask for it?! And Bras n Things is woeful – I see a post forming – I started boycotting it a little while ago when they started having big Playboy displays in their windows … I did some research on them (Playboy) for an article on ‘Diva- Mistaking Rear Ends For Fashion Trends’ … they have supported the child sexual images, among other things … so if BnThings is ramping up their poor taste even without the help of Playboy, it’s just one more reason not to go there …

  3. November 2, 2012 at 7:30 am

    My boys are young, so we’ve only been to ‘adults-are-invited-too’ parties. I used to work at bras n things.. enough said :)

    • This Charming Mum
      November 2, 2012 at 9:56 am

      Ah, so you know all the ins and outs of the underwear industry then? I must say they sell an excellent sports bra there, but I’m not onboard with their marketing approach.

  4. November 2, 2012 at 8:03 am

    My boy is only 2 and a bit, so we haven’t hit the “drop and dash” stage yet. I didn’t even realise that’s what parents did! At the moment I can’t even imagine I would ever leave him! Could be quite embarrassing for him when he’s 15 though :)

    • This Charming Mum
      November 2, 2012 at 9:55 am

      Yes, I’ve also wondered how my daughter will handle me coming with her to nightclubs or job interviews in years to come 😉

  5. November 2, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Gosh, I haven’t had to worry about this too much yet but with school just around the corner, I guess I better start thinking. I’m pretty sure I would be a stayer. Maybe in a few years I would be ok with doing the dash but Definitely hanging around for now :)

    • This Charming Mum
      November 2, 2012 at 9:53 am

      Yes, it’s all been a learning curve this year for us. I’m sure as they get older I’ll get more relaxed but I think I’ll be staying for awhile. My worry now is my own daughter’s party coming up next month – how many kids will I be responsible for??

  6. November 2, 2012 at 8:30 am

    That is a terrific shiner there. I have two big teens and twins aged 6 and am a TOTAL drop and dasher… I wasn’t so much with the big boys but now I am a totally slack mother and always have another kid to drop somewhere. But the school families all have my number and in an emergency they can call 000. Yes, I’m that slack! Having said that, my wee girl is going to a party at a play centre today and I can stay and will – it’s a chatting party for the mums which is great. A wee break. Happy blogging, I found you via FYBF.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 2, 2012 at 9:50 am

      You don’t sound slack at all- just a typically very busy parent! I’m sure I will get more relaxed about it too as the kids get older. And, of course, Miss 5 is my first to hit this party age so it’s all new for both of us. Play centres are a good option anyway since the kids can’t really escape!

  7. November 2, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I’m a stayer for now, but my kids are only young. We have been to that many parties in the last couple of months, I have been geting quite good at buying presents now. I have my own double party(1st and 3rd) to host next weekend, I don’t think there will be any drop offs there.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 2, 2012 at 9:59 am

      Yeah, you get quite a good system going with present buying after awhile don’t you? I have my own daughter’s party next month too and I fear there probably will be a few ‘dashers’. Sounds like you have a lot of fun ahead of you next weekend! We did a combined 1st and 4th for my younger two this year. It worked really well.

  8. Yvette @ Little Bento Blog
    November 2, 2012 at 11:28 am

    I am a stayer.. I know lots of people who are a drop and dash.. and depending where the party is being held, I would usually put a little note on the end of the invite saying (Parents are requested to stay – please let us know if you are unable to stay).

    :) FYBF

    • This Charming Mum
      November 2, 2012 at 4:15 pm

      I had never thought about the little note. But that is why you are you, and are organised enough to make amazing bento lunches instead of wonky vegemite sandwiches like me 😉 That’s an especially good idea for a party in a park/outdoor area where you really don’t want to be left with extra responsibility.

  9. November 2, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Your post made me remember the first child’s birthday party I hosted – for my then 5 year old. We were in a park, and most parents dropped and dashed, which I was fine with. But I think I probably made the party 3 hours long, and expected the kids to just play on the play equipment the whole time. Well, they were finished with that in about 20 minutes, and after I’d exhausted my three prepared party games, I had about 2 hours in which I was supposed to entertain them, as they stood in front of me, staring at me expectantly. I was avoiding their stares by gazing wistfully at the party on the other side of the park who’d had the foresight to hire Spiderman.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 2, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      Oh no! I’d have run over and bribed Spiderman to pay us a visit. Yes, I was thinking in terms of safety, but actually keeping them entertained is another major part of the whole party-hosting equation isn’t it? Always handy to have a few extra parents – or at least older siblings – to step in with a quick impromptu Tunnel Ball!

  10. November 2, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I was a stayer when they were little (under 5) but once they reach a certain age, I now drop (unless the party is in some far flung location and its more hassle to go and come back).

    But I know for SOME parties, you don’t want the parents to stay – then, not only do you have to entertain the children, but the parents as well.

    Home parties – feeding the children, feeding the adults; it’s too much! And then you have the parents who expect to be waited upon as well as you running the party. And granted, there are always some wonderful parents who can help you, but don’t count on it!!

    I think your decision to stay can be guided by your child’s age, how well you know the parents, the venue and activities. Take each party, one party at a time.

    (and good news is that the older the children get, the less parties, and you get a bit of your weekend back and a fuller wallet).

    Regards, Annie
    (via FYBF)

    • This Charming Mum
      November 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      Yes, I’m sure as they get older the ‘rules’ will start changing. I agree though about the pressure of having to feed the parents. That’s why I hear a lot of people say it’s almost actually cheaper to spend a couple of hundred dollars on a party at a play centre than to have it at home – the catering bill is the same either way! I think your ‘one party at a time’ advice is the best option. Thanks!

  11. November 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    It is a good question I have a 4 year old son and so at this stage I stay for the party.

    Because whilst at one level how can the hosts keep an eye on all those kids, get food out and conduct party games. We will have to wait until their 18.

    Of course the other side is whilst the parents keep staying as hosts you have to feed and water them as well.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 2, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      Yes, I agree, it can be a hassle to have to entertain the parents as well. I went to one party awhile back where the poor host was so busy making coffees for the grown ups she hardly had time for the kids. Clearly that’s not fair for anyone! I have two more parties this weekend and I’ll be staying at both (although one is at Macca’s, so I might be inside with a coffee blogging!).

  12. November 2, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    My girlfriend was speaking about this the other day. I have not needed to worry as my son is only 3 and generally the parents of those invited are friends – so its a party for both!
    I am not looking forward to making the choice to be frank.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm

      It’s a learning curve for sure. Thanks for reading :)

  13. November 2, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    My boys are only 1 and 2 so there’s never been the option to do the dash (although I’ve been tempted to dash!). I don’t know what the current etiquette is for older ones- perhaps talking to the host to see what they had in mind… and I suppose the location also matters. Hopefully parents doing the ‘dash’ leave contact details. Fortunately you were available for your daughter at the time of the accident x

    • This Charming Mum
      November 2, 2012 at 8:17 pm

      Yes, the temptation to dash is ever present – eg. from a supermarket mid-tantrum! I agree though that it largely depends on the host and location.

  14. November 3, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    We’re still not at the stage of a schedule filled with birthday parties yet. But yeah, I don’t like the idea of drop and dash. What happened to Ms 4 (poor bubba) is a perfect reminder of what could’ve happened to the other kids. I don’t think you’re over-protective at all!

    • This Charming Mum
      November 3, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      I like to reassure myself of that. It’ll be different when they’re teenagers and I’m still hanging around their parties! Thanks for reading :)

  15. November 8, 2012 at 5:07 am

    I thought parties were supposed to be fun. It sounds like so much work! My daughter is too young for birthday parties just yet. Thanks for preparing me for what I’m in for!!

    • This Charming Mum
      November 8, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      Well, they’re still fun – the kids don’t stress about any of the stuff we grown ups worry about do they? My own daughter’s 6th birthday is coming up soon. At least I’m sure to get a blog post out of it 😉

  16. Donna
    November 28, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    I am stayer. My kids are 5 and under so next year things may get a little different. I agree I told my friends who intended to stay that their hubby’s need not come if they don’t want too, hint hint but they came to catch up with my hubby. I run the parties.
    When I was a nanny in London some parents stayed but only because I also ran the parties and they got a chance to catch up with my boss, which I really didn’t care about, mind you out of sight and I must admit I had a good rep for holding parties that I was paid to hold other parties.
    I think if parents want to stay they can having coffee/tea only. Maybe put that on the invite also.
    Oh also a good hint buy presents throughout the year that you see on sale and put them away. Sometimes you get awesome presents for very little cost as they are reduced.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm

      Thanks Donna. You’ve raised several good points there! Yeah, I’m not a fan of having to cater for the parents – it gets too expensive apart from anything else. This is my first year of having a ‘present box’ – where I stash the bargains I spot from time to time. Great suggestions :)

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