By Miss Pollyanna, 14th April 2015

Party Pooper or Old-School Trouper?

Bring back children's birthday party tradition and say NO to competition!

Bring back children’s birthday party tradition and say NO to competition!

When did it all begin? Maybe our parents first experienced it in a much more diluted and subtle way? It might have started with a trip to the bakery in Notting Hill for a triple decker snow scene forest animals’ cake instead of the usual chocolate hedgehog from our local in Staines. Sarah Morse’s Dad might have got in a professional magician who also made sausage style balloons and had a sexy assistant. And then there was the new kid at school’s parents, who were so loaded that they hired out the entire town hall just so he could have a roller skating party when he was 10! Maybe crazy competitive children’s birthday parties have always been there…but we were just kids having too much fun to notice?

Now it’s a whole different story. What happened to the good old days? And am I being a party pooper or an old-school trouper?


Remember those blissful parties of the 80’s and 90’s when ‘The Party Bag’ composed of the crust of the birthday cake and a token balloon if you were lucky? When I was a kid it was the dads who came out tops with Doggy Bags full of leftover food which my friends’ mums would all too happily scoop up and send us revelers home with in a bid to lessen the cleaning up operation. Nowadays the expectations of the invitees parting gift is greater than the birthday present of the celebrating child!

In fact one of the girls at my daughter’s 7th ‘birthday ‘Tame Tea Party In The Garden’ demanded of me rather dramatically, ‘Well? You haven’t given me my Party Bag!’ as she was about to go home.

‘That would be because I didn’t do any, sweetheart,’ I replied. ‘But you can have your cake and you can jolly well eat it.’ I smiled, my face as temple-achingly sweet as the lopsided butter-iced mess I had just handed her in clinical white kitchen roll. You guessed it; in our household we don’t even do the matching themed napkins. The dye in their print only soaks into the party food anyway. Yuk!

In fact I am wondering if our household is one of the last remaining giver-outers of Traditional Tame Tea Parties?


We have always shunned the grandeur of hiring out kids’ play centres, water parks, yurts, animal farms, zoos, shabby chic arts and crafts cafes, leisure centres and castles in favour of Yea Good Ole’ Fashioned Tea Party. Aka a table full of sarnies, cupcakes, sausage rolls, cheese and pineapple on sticks and a homemade birthday cake. We just prefer it that way.

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Yes, we still have the tidying up to contend with. Yes, we still have to come up with a few games and prizes. Yes, we still have to make vats of tea, coffee and wine for the parents. But we don’t even try to compete with our children’s friend’s parents. Our children’s parties are what they are: Simple and fun. No credit cards taking a hammering – some of these venues rival wedding venues for their price tags! No £100 bill for a birthday cake with a Barbie welded into the icing – I could probably rustle up a half decent version by myself for a fifth of the price and sneak a doll from my daughter’s bedroom without her realising. No hiring of bouncy castles – we have a trampoline. No face painters (and no red spotty faces at bedtime). No Disney Frozen impersonators. And definitely no magician making sausage balloons – thank God – can you remember that noise?

Where do we go from here?
Expectation increases. This is a natural thing, and don’t get me wrong, this is a beautiful thing. They don’t call me Miss Pollyanna for nothing. But expectation is only something worth teaching your kids if it is matched by their gratitude. This year you hire out the local museum so your children and their friends can dress up as Vikings and Tudors and stage battles on the croquet lawn. Next year they’ll be expecting you to take them and said friends on a Disney themed cruise ship around The Bahamas with $1,000 spending money per guest to be spent in the shopping malls on the Florida Keys.

Rusty Clark
Rusty Clark

It’s time to draw the line mums and dads. It’s time to tear up those party planning spreadsheets, get back to basics, re-gain your sleep, put down the half drained whisky bottles and give your bank balance a chance to get back into the plus signs.

It’s just like the phenomenon of the toddler with the wrapping paper and cardboard boxes at Christmas. Frankly, they couldn’t give two hoots what Santa’s bought them. If they are happy with that, keep it simples. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it!

Children thrive in simplicity.
No, really, they do! It’s only you and your desire to ‘fit in’ with the crowd, get one up on the richest parents in Albert’s class/Evie’s playgroup that has started this all in the first place. And have you watched your kids at a party (in-between wondering where Izzy got her latest Gucci handbag and how much money Annabelle’s husband earns as a stock broker)? Next time you’re at a party for all thirty kids in the class (or if your Little Monkeys are at private school, I suspect it might be slightly less), make a point of actually observing your children. More often than not they are at their happiest discovering the delights in their tiny friend’s toy box; the dolls, teddy bears, games and random bits and bobs that are new to their eyes. And if they aren’t scattering the house with stray Lego and Postman Pat figures, they are running up and down in the garden, chasing the cat, licking icing off the cakes and taking bites out of cocktail sausages. It really is the simple things that entertain.

I say none of this to preach, merely to save your marriages and to stop you reaching for the anti-wrinkle cream for mature skin in your late twenties. If you want your children to remain in a state of perpetual appreciation throughout their lives, it’s never going to happen by hiring out Toys R Us as a giant sleepover venue for their entire school to celebrate their latest age in candles on the life-sized Spiderman birthday cake shipped in from the sugar craft experts in L.A.

And that’s all I have to say on the matter – I’m all partied out.

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