So, off now to birthday party with 3yo - held at kids play centre Sort of Hunger Games for toddlers Plenty of jelly & ice cream expected
Yesterday I took our daughter to a birthday party at our local Village Hall. The experience made me reflect on a number of the birthday parties I have attended over the last few months with her.
As she is three, most of the parties we are attending are either for children turning three or four. Toddler birthday parties are a strange thing. The children are not really old enough to interact in organised games and tend in my experience at least, to play around rather than with one another.
In any event, going to a birthday party is an opportunity for our three year old daughter to dress up, something she never turns down.
So yesterday, having chosen her best party dress, sparkliest party shoes and refused point blank to take a coat or wear tights, we headed off to the local village hall.
As it was a lovely afternoon the parents had sensibly decided to move the bouncy castle outside. I was less sensible in not anticipating this and therefore, unlike the more sensible parents, had not brought along wellington boots for three year old.
It transpired I was not alone however, as numerous other parents had not anticipated this either. Nor had any of us anticipated that our children would also demand to play in the outdoor children's play area adjacent to the Village Hall. This, given the recent rain and heavy use by children in the few moments it has been dry, resembles a mud bath. Indeed, numerous toddlers rushing into the play area to swarm over the muddy equipment gave the whole area the look of some very dodgy student mud wrestling event.
I'm not particularly fastidious where our daughter's clothing is concerned, she's three, so it's best not to get too hung up on it becoming stained. The potential for mud damage was such though that I did rescue a pair of play shoes from the car for her to run about the playground in.
Less well prepared parents were finding the whole experience far more stressful however, with many a yummy mummy hurling themselves around between play equipment to stop their beautifully dressed little darlings from ending bottom first in a muddy puddle.
The interaction between parents at these parties is also an interesting thing. In my experience it largely mirrors that of the toddlers. We're all too busy following our own mini kamikaze pilots to have time to do anything more than acknowledge the other parents doing the same thing.
The process of following your little darling around to ensure their safety at these events can be a risky one in itself; if not of physical injury then most definitely of loss of any remaining dignity.
A case in point was an invitation for our three year old daughter to attend her friend's fourth birthday party at a nearby indoor play area. If you've never visited one of these facilities they consist of various scaffolding type areas linked by rope bridges and slides, surrounded by seating for parents, normally housed inside industrial units.
The resulting chaos is best described as Hunger Games for toddlers.
This particular Saturday it was pouring with rain, so the whole place was over populated with screaming children, their sodden clothing slowly steaming to create a rather unhealthy miasma that hung just above head level. Add to this the incredible amount of high pitched noise coming from the kiddies and you had an environment that was, I suspect, not that different to the depths of the Amazon.
Our daughter immediately plunges into the labyrinth of scaffolding while still holding my hand and shouting "come on Daddy, let's play." Refusing to enter the play equipment and follow her friends without me, I am forced to follow.
The play equipment is designed for people much smaller than me, I therefore resemble some lumbering Harry Potter-esque giant forcing my way through the surging munchkins.
Half way through the scaffolding I encounter the most terrifying part of the structure yet. Two mangle like contraptions, being negotiated with ease by three year old and her friends. I manage to squeeze through the vertical version, but then comes the horizontal one. I push myself into the padded rollers, getting my head and shoulders through, trying then to pull my body after me. Except I'm stuck.
Three year old is reaching for my hand and is confused: "Come on Daddy!"
"Daddy's stuck," I reply.
"Why?" That's her favourite answer to anything, ever.
"Because Daddy's too fat!" I'm still struggling to pull myself forward but it's not happening.
"It's your fat bottom! I'll pull," so three year old begins to heave on my arm with, unsurprisingly, little success. She has a brain wave and turns to call after her toddler friends: "Come and held Daddy, his fat bottom is stuck in the squidgy thing!"
By this point I have lost any final semblance of dignity to which I had been clinging. There is nothing more ignominious than being pulled through a kids mangle by a bunch of toddlers. My embarrassment knows no bounds.
I decide it's time to escape the scaffolding. But how? By this time I'm stooped, disorientated and thinking I must have been a very bad person in a previous life as I am jabbed by numerous of Satan's little helpers as they rush past.
My embarrassment is lessened slightly as, upon emerging to applause from the other waiting parents, one of the Mums tells me in hushed tones, the story of having been caught in the same mangle when she was 8 months pregnant and being certain that a consequence of hauling herself through would be the early onset of labour.
We escape finally to a party room where three year old and her friends get to stuff sausage, chips and beans and I'm left to reflect how everything is relative. What would normally seem so chaotic now appears serene by comparison with what went before.