Party to some stress

5th June, 2008

Last weekend we played host to THE garden party of the decade.

The barbecue saw its first outing of the season with food prepared for 20 people, drinks were served off ice from 4pm and a 27 feet long gazebo adorned with balloons was shoehorned along the south-facing side of the house (thankfully to provide sun shade rather than as a rain cover as Camelford seemed to be enjoying its own microclimate that day.) The grass had been freshly mown a day earlier with the lawn edges neatly strimmed. Inside, the house had been cleaned from top to toe.

Just to put into context, this was for a birthday party conceived by and hosted for our excited 11 year old. The parents among you will know that kids’ birthday parties these days are rather different than the modest two-or-three-friends-round-for-sausages-on-sticks-after-school events of my generation.

Party 2008 is engineered with military precision and can take weeks to plan and nothing escapes a risk assessment. Classroom politics dictate who’s on the guest list. Invitations are bespoke desktop-published rather than templated, pastel shaded, slips featuring Rupert the Bear… RSVPs come by text, email and Skype…

It would seem that the Rush household is not alone. A recent survey by children’s party organisers Les Enfants says that three quarters of British mums find organising a child’s party stressful and 26% feel under pressure to throw bigger, better parties each year. 35% give out party bags for guests to take home, just because that’s what everyone else does (what happened to just taking home a piece of cake if you were too full to eat it at the party?!)

And let’s not forget the politics: 61% feel that you should only invite your child’s close friends while 36% feel it’s fairer to invite everyone in their class.

Contrary to my natural calling, I stopped short of providing our guests with party feedback forms … although the qualitative feedback from the playground on Monday morning was that it was a “cool” party. It was worth the stress.

Let’s face it, next year could be different. Jelly and ice cream in the garden could be replaced by a trip to McPizza-U-Like and the latest teen flick. As parents we’ll enjoy it while we can, thanks!