Although my meticulous family planning has ensured that my children were born two years apart, it wasn't quite meticulous enough to ensure that the birthdays were evenly spaced throughout the year. So nos 1-3 have their birthdays within six weeks of each other (all I can say is I must have been having a lot of fun in August when I was in my thirties, but I can't quite for the life of me remember any of it now...)
So since May I have hosted a party for 12 year olds (barbecue, several 12 year olds sitting around pretending to be grown up while the others ran around like lunatics in the garden, fairly easy); one for ten year olds (party food, karoake, and much pet stroking. Apart from one drama queen child, also fairly easy); and yesterday we had the eight year olds.
Now no 3 in general is a fairly well behaved and biddable child. She has invited the same group of friends since reception, and they have also always been fairly well behaved and biddable.
Lulled into a false sense of security by the generally good behaviour at the 10/12 year old events, I forgot that 8 year olds probably need a bit more structure. Ok, actually, the real truth is I was all partied out, and far too complacent about Having Done This Before (ad nauseam, I might add).
First mistake I made was not to have organised games when they arrived. I suggested to no 3 they do some dancing in the lounge, and no 1 put Amy Winehouse on very loudly (it is a truth unviersally acknowledged that music at children's parties gets less and less appropriate for the younger ones as their older siblings grow up). By now mil had arrived, and was sitting in state in a straight backed chair we have for her as its more comfortable. I made her a cup of tea and realised, that while there was music playing very loudly, children were there none. They'd all gone mental and run in the garden.
Fair enough, I thought, then realised half of them didn't have their shoes on. Given that foxes are a bloody nuisance round here (bring back hunting, say I), my offspring are unfortunately banned from going shoeless in the garden. I instructed no 3 to tell them to put their shoes on. She came back wailing that no one would listen. I then went down and told them all to get their shoes on. After much moaning most of them complied bar two. One is the daughter of my RforL running buddie from last year, the other is the daughter of my Super Organised Friend who regularly saves my life. SOF's daughter thinks she's at home in my house, which is rather flattering, until you realise that this manifests itself into very lippy behaviour. So we had to have Words on the subject of her shoes and she and RforL friend's daughter ended up sulking on the swing seat.
No 4 (who does a fine line in telling tales) then came to inform me that three kids were on the trampoline, which is two more then there should be. I went to tell them off, and witnessed one child suddenly collapsing on the floor clutching her leg, which is precisely the reason I NEVER wanted a sodding trampoline in the first place. Said child then limped for the next HOUR, and complained that she couldn't straighten her leg. Why couldn't one of mine have injured themselves?? (Terrible the way as a parent you'd ALWAYS rather have your own child injured on your watch then someone else's...)
No 3 by now was getting grumpy that none of her friends wanted to play games, so I suggested we did the Treasure Hunt which I had scrabbled together about five minutes before all the guests arrived. I've done Treasure Hunt's before, but I have to confess this wasn't my finest hour and the clues were, well , rather crap. So the children had found the treasure in next to no time. The treasure was in the form of little boxes of smarties and prompted two children to inform me they couldn't under any circumstances have chocolate, one child that she was banned animal fat plus I knew a fourth was diabetic, so I had to watch her sugar intake. I'm sure things were simpler for my mother...
By now Pizzas had arrived, so all the children sat down to eat, and I tried to ensure that no one was too greedy, no one had too much coke (and in the case of the diabetic that she ONLY had diet coke), while checking surreptitiously on the injury and hoping against hope that it wasn't serious.
As soon as food was done and dealt with I suggested they sang karaoke, which only met with approval from half of the guests who piled down the garden again to play in the fort Spouse lovingly built the children a few years back.
At this point no 3 who is absolutely knackered (see previous post) totally lost the plot as she wanted them all to play games. I cunningly got her wayward friends back inside by dint of producing the birthday cake, but then remembered once I'd got them all to sing Happy Birthday that no 4 and one of her friends were playing upstairs. As she'd had a paddy on a previous occasion that we'd sung Happy Birthday without her, I stopped no 3 from blowing out her candles, and got her to do it again. Cue no 3 bursting into tears again, as I'd accidentally given her relighting candles so they popped back into life again anyway. One of her friends then helpfully offered to blow them out again, which caused a veritable flood. By now no 4 had come down, we sang Happy Birthday again, but no 3 refused to blow the candles out and no 4 then burst into tears because she'd missed it all, and I chucked all the flaming candles into a bowl fo water.
I hastily persuaded no 1 to organise a game of Dead Lions (only now of course you have to call it Sleepy Lions) - through which no 3 sobbed uncontrollably. This was followed by Tongue Murder (same as Murder in the Dark, but the murderer sticks out his/her tongue at people, and then they die). Most of no 3's friends hadn't played it before, so it took a while to get the instructions sorted - in fact in the first game half the victims thought they'd been murdered when they hadn't, but hey, it kept them quiet for ten minutes, so I wasn't complaining.
I took this opportunity to retreat into the kitchen and cut and wrap cake, willing it to be 6.30 so the party would be over. I can honestly say the last quarter of an hour was one of the longest of my life.
To my relief, no one was late for pick up, the three children I took home were all despatched without a murmur, limping child miraculously recovered well enough to walk through her front door, and I sat down to a large glass of wine safe in the knowledge that I don't have to do that again till next February...