A few moons back, throwing a children’s party was simple: invite a load of children and make some semi-respectable sarnies. Job done.
My son Jack’s fourth birthday is just around the corner and the magnitude of birthday themes and locations would leave you in a stupor.
In fact, we’re so frazzled by all of the options we haven’t arranged anything – at the moment, it’ll be me, him, the dog and a packet of Iced Gems.
We’re not an extravagant family by any means, but birthdays are memorable landmarks in children’s lives, for some reason the memories on those days stay indelibly etched on your brain for years.
I remember an eighth birthday party at Wimpy in Palmerston Road, Southsea. A gaggle of snotty children, devouring mountains of chips and burgers, then the star attraction, Mr Wimpy himself.
Picture the scene, 1982 and a young student just training to make a few quid, he had drawn the short straw and had to ‘costume up’ in the giant, sweaty, unbreathable Mr W outfit.
If you’ve ever entertained a swarm of eight-year-olds, you know that they won’t be placated with a simple wave. Eight-year-old boys want some form of physical combat. And so Mr Wimpy took one for the team.
Standing on his clown-like feet, we were whacking him on his giant latex schnozz for just under two hours. I still feel guilty 32 years later.
Clearly, I’m keen to avoid confrontation or ‘well-meant violence’ for my son’s birthday, but I am keen to create moments that he and we, can savour.
The real problem is that we’re all spoilt for choice. Swimming pool, pirate, football, bowling, inflatable, climbing, ice-skating, tennis, gymnastics or maybe a hire-a-clown party?
What about catering? Make your own, or go for the in-house delights, but then what about the vegan, the coeliac and the choosy child who’ll only eat potato waffles?
And finally the party bags, now children expect an additional week’s worth of home entertainment in a themed carrier bag. Are children’s expectations more sophisticated? Probably. Do we make a rod for our own backs? Definitely.