The mind-boggling, baffling, and bonkers world of children’s birthday parties.

Recently, my little monster has started to receive invites to birthday parties. I haven’t held one for him yet, because he’s two. He has no concept of what a birthday party is and doesn’t care whether or not he gets one. I’m also not one of those “keeping up with the Jones’s” types when it comes to parenting, so I don’t care if everyone else is giving their one-year olds a massive party complete with village hall hire and professional entertainers and caterers; mine is just going to have to be happy with a homemade cake and trip out somewhere. Plus, he shares my birthday, so I’m pretty reluctant to make the day all about a room full of sugar-high kids.

This has led to a whole host of questions and possible social faux pas for me, and I’ve been relieved to discover that I’m not the only one struggling with this. Recently a friend confided in me that she was feeling rather stressed over what to buy a three-year old she had never met for his birthday after her son was invited to his party. This was causing her all sorts of anxiety; spend too much and she seemed like a show off, spend too little and she would seem mean. A voucher would be impersonal, but how could she choose something for someone she had never met?

Having spoken to other mothers, it’s clear that it’s not just me or my friend who struggle with the etiquette of birthdays, and this becomes even more of a headache when it comes to organising a party for your own child. I have no doubt that I will soon have to bite the bullet and hold a birthday party for my son, and with this comes a whole plethora of confusing conundrums:

Child's birthday party

Invites

Do you invite the entire class or just a handful of children? What if your little one wants to invite everyone except the school bully? Should they be invited too in the name of inclusion, potentially putting a dampener on what should be your child’s special day?

Party Bags

How much should you spend on party bags? Sweets seem to be a big no-no these days with all the scare stories about obesity and dental decay, but surely as a special occasion they are OK?

Allergies

How do you manage the fact that so many children seem to be allergic to so many different foods these days? Do you ban all gluten, dairy, nuts, fish, etc. etc. or just hope that the parents of the child will be responsible for keeping their child safe?

Venue

Do you hold the party in your home with the knowledge that you will be scraping cake off the floor, or do you hire a hall somewhere? Maybe you could hold it in a play-centre where they organise an event on your behalf, but then do you pay for it all or ask each parent to pay for their own child?

Other Parents

Do the parents stay or do they go? Do you need to cater for them, as well?

Entertainment

Do you do your own games? If you do a round of pass the parcel how do you make sure that no one gets left out? Or, do you hire an entertainer and accept that this party is going to require a re-mortgage of the house?

Boring birthday

Just reading this is exhausting. Sorry kid, I think you’re just going to have to accept a lifetime of birthdays celebrated with my homemade cakes and a family trip to the zoo.