Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Santa for Hire?

Santa gave me his business card today. Seriously. He slipped it into my palm as my youngest, Monkey, sat upon his knee, telling the big white beard all of his Christmas wishes.

As Monkey gazed adoringly into Mr C's eyes, I looked at the business card he managed to hand me in exchange for my son to climb upon his knee.

'Clowns, magicians, pony rides, Carnival games, train rides....' Gosh, Santa has had to branch out. And however cheeky this little maneuver was, I suppose he did have a captive audience in which to network. Guess the tough economic climate has made even the inhabitants of the North Pole feel the pinch this year eh?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Who forgot their party manners?

We drew the short straw when we fell preggers with Cheeky - his birthday is right next door to Christmas. (Yes, that wasn't smart planning. But nothing about becoming a parent goes according to plan does it)?

So, this time of year is the usual craziness with Christmas shopping, but then we throw a birthday into the mix and up shoots the credit card bill.

As no-one is usually around on his actual birthday - his friends all being off visiting family for the holidays, we have his party in early December. And as snow is often on the ground, we tend to hire a venue and do a 'party package' rather than risk letting 20+ little boys loose in house.

Bowling party? Check! Indoor play centre party? Check! So this year we went for a 'Pump It Up' party. Along with nearly all the other five year old boys in his class as it turns out..

Anyway, Pump It Up is one of those inflatable party palaces. All huge slides, bounce houses, padded climbing walls and enough basketball hoops and air hockey tables to wear out a couple dozen over-excitable four and five year olds.

And due to its party venue popularity, it has also felt like my second home lately as for the last five weeks, we have attended a Pump It Up party every weekend. Despite this, Cheeky insisted that this was his venue of choice and bored of it, he was not!

So, off we trotted a couple of days ago, to do the whole fun and cake overload experience. Again.

Obviously, once the 'bounce' part has concluded, the kids' main focus is on the food, cake and the party/goody bags they will take home with them.

The whole gift bag etiquette perplexes me, coming from a childhood where we'd be genuinely excited to leave a party with anything, especially a slice of cake and a balloon. I certainly don't remember ever expecting to be given a goody bag as I waved goodbye. Or was that just me?

These days, I've heard kids exclaim, "Hope we get a good toy," upon entering the birthday party. I was gobsmacked.

When I first lived over here, I made a huge social faux pas by saying to a group of Moms, that I didn't really see the point of the goody bag. That a piece of cake to take home was OK. That surely the children should be pleased to be invited to have some fun sharing the birthday boy/girls day? That only going to get a goody bag, was, actually, rather rude....?

Cue silence.

I quickly learnt that providing a goody bag was essential when hosting a children's birthday party. And some of the ones my boys have been lucky to get, have been spectacularly packed with toys, treats, stickers, cookies etc. And what do my Cheeky and Monkey do?

They tear through the bags, tossing aside any kind of writing instrument or stickers and make for the chocolate or candy that may lurk at the bottom of the bag. And the toy? Well, it depends what it is. One recent goody bag contained Lightning McQueen from the Cars movie, thus that goody bag received the gold star seal of approval. But I've seen others barely touched and I always feel so sorry that a Mom/Mum somewhere put a lot of effort into buying those treats and filling those bags, only for some of it or all of it, to end up in the trash.

So, whenever we've had a party for Cheeky or Monkey, I've tried to chose goody bag treats that I hope will at least be used or played with a little before they end up dumped in a corner. In the summer, at Monkey's birthday party, we gave all the children a skipping/jump rope and a giant bubble stick. So, I decided to do Christmasy stuff for this party. I filled the bags with Christmas cartoon colouring books, chocolate coins, candy canes, Christmas stickers, and a chocolate Santa. No toys. Not to be rude, but the party and cake was already costing over $250 before anything was put into a flipping goody bag...

At the end of the party, I had to stop several guests stampeding the goody bag table, in their eagerness to see what loot they were receiving. Blimey! I would have just let them all at it, except I'd made some of the bags more girl-friendly and some more boy appropriate, so I wanted to ensure the little men in our group didn't go home with My Little Pony or Tinkerbell books. But jeez, if this is what it feels like to be stage-dived at, then thank goodness I'm not a rock star.

As I handed out the bags, two girls started arguing over the contents. Then, of course, they started crying. (Note to self: Give all the girls exactly the same books, unless you want to see World War III break out over who has Minnie Mouse and who has Snow White to colour in.) One boy took his bag from me, looked inside it, pulled a face and promptly gave it back saying, "I don't want this thank you." I was dumbfounded. But at least he was polite about it.

Two children came up to me and asked, "Where's the toy?" I felt like ramming the goody bag down their little necks and only half of them said 'thank you' when they got the bags or left the party.

One little boy actually got up from his seat during the food and asked me when the pizza was coming. I explained that we weren't having pizza.

"But at my party we gave everyone pizza," he said. "And are we having ice cream with the cake?" He wasn't giving up.

"No, it's cake and fruit and there's crisps too if you want them." I replied, trying to get away from this four foot menace.

And when it came to the goody bags, he had something to say about them as well. He tapped me on the arm and told me," At my party, we gave everyone lots of toys in the bags."

"How lovely," I replied. Through gritted teeth.

What I failed to tell him, but perhaps I should have, was that those toys were still rolling around in the back of my car, broken before they made it home and now are unwanted by my children. What a waste of cash that was, I wanted to say. But he was still so busy grumbling about the lack of ice cream, any explanations from me would have fallen on deaf ears. Anyway, what was I thinking, even contemplating explaining myself to a five year old?!

A little later, guests all departed, when I was alone except for the cake crumbs in the party room, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. It was all over for another year. Not quite the post-party feeling I had planned or hoped for...

But the reality of hosting kids parties is starting to chip away at my usually party-happy demeanour. I would be mortified if either of my boys left a do without thanking the hostess for the party and the goody bag, whatever they really thought of the whole event.

On reflection, am sure if I told the mothers of those children who spoke out to me, what their little darlings had said, they'd be mortified. At least I hope they would, but, you never seem to know these days do you?

On the plus side, at least Cheeky and Monkey had a good time and already can't wait for next years birthday party. Me? It'll take me 12 months to get over this one....

pic credit: Fotosearch