Thursday, 17 March 2016

Happy Returns

There's a great hoax doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment. It's a good one because it rings true - but it's not. It's a fake news report about a mother who sends invitations to her son's seventh birthday party, and includes the caveat that gifts must be worth a minimum of £50 because "I'm tired of buying nice presents for his friends and getting happy meal gifts in return!"

It's a spoof, of course. I was thinking about this because my daughter is turning thirteen. Thirteen! How did that happen? One minute they're chewing on a dummy, the next they're chewing you out for forgetting to wash their favourite shirt.

I've decided this is the last birthday party I'm ever organising for her. Trying to get her to decide how she wanted to celebrate was a monumental task. I presented several ideas, the response to which ranged from "Ugh," to "So-and-so's already done that," to a contemptuous raising of the eyebrows. Finally, my daughter graciously accepted my suggestion of a 'Pamper Party'.

There are various companies that will organise a pamper party for you in your own home. They vary widely in cost, but they do the same kind of thing; face masks, mani-pedis, nail art, head massage and make-up. The company I've hired is also bringing spa robes and a non-alcoholic cocktail fountain. They sound very efficient, and I have high hopes that while the girls are getting their nails done, I can spend the entire two hours upstairs in my bedroom with Netflix and a glass of wine.

The curious thing is how regulated birthday parties are becoming. The company I've hired, for instance, insists that all parents complete an online waiver  before they will carry out any treatments. I suppose this is to absolve them of responsibility if one of the kids goes into anaphylactic shock from the face cream. But it's not the first time I've been asked to sign a parental waiver for a birthday party. It seems this kind of red tape is becoming the norm.

Then there's the question of party gifts. I absolutely HATE party bags. I know they're seen as a nice gesture, and many parents do them as a thank you to the children who've come to their parties. But why? Are we really so achingly polite that we have to organise, host, cater and pay for a party, and then feel obliged to present gifts to people just for turning up? It's barking mad. So I don't do party bags.

But I'm far too much of a wimp to just brazen it out completely and send the kids home empty-handed. So I cheat, and buy them a single chocolate rabbit or small chocolate egg. Not a party gift, you see, but an Easter gift.

Next year I might add a caveat of my own to my daughter's birthday invitations. No presents required for the birthday girl. But her mother likes bath salts and oatmeal cookies.

Well, it's worth a try.

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