June is a pretty full on month for us as my biological clock decided to liven things up a bit by ensuring our kids have birthdays eight days apart. Sometimes it takes the collected works of Andrew WK to get me through June. There is only so much birthday cake a girl can take. I have had to take out mortgage just to pay for all the Haribo we are consuming. The only present I want would be to never ever have to organise another children's party ever again. Therefore I gift you my guide to children's birthday parties.
Outsource the labour for this one as much as possible; a picnic in a park, a bbq at your parents- anything that minimises clean up. Your body is still leaking fluids at random intervals the last thing you need is to be scraping sausage rolls out of the upholstery as well.
Guests: at this point the party is more a celebration that you've managed to keep the creature alive than an acknowledgment of your offspring's unique charms. Therefore you should focus on which adults you want there and encourage them to bring a small human or two if they can procure one, so it at least looks like a child's party, then crack open the Prosecco and toast to the utter destruction you have brought into your life.
Ideally hold this one somewhere large and open: a park, a golf course, a firing range; you just want somewhere that is capable of managing the destructive powers of a 2 year old. Fuck themes - the kids are barely sentient and will be more interested in cardboard boxes than your Pinterest inspired maritime themed snacks and bunting.
Guests: there will probably be more kids in the mix by this point but it's still reasonable to focus more on which adults you want around than inviting specific kids. Mind you, don't expect to be able to finish a sentence at any point during the party. You will spend the day covered in sticky hand prints, shouting at small humans in an increasing harassed manner as they try to fit their limbs in a blender and other fun games of their own invention.
By this point the child has developed opinions (shudder) and will probably want something wildly unrealistic like an under water party or a live dinosaur as a guest. Negotiate them down to a church hall with balloons and music - either nursery rhymes or pop depending on how precocious your child is.
Guests: although the focus is more on the kids' needs by this point there will still be a lot of parents present and they will have hit their drinking stride by this point, so provide industrial quantities of booze and coffee as in previous years.
Soft play. It's the least stressful of the myriad shysters trying to skim money off your poor, sleep deprived, befuddled form. When you're in soft play the kids know what they're doing, they are generally capable of being civil to other children and at least 75% of parents will stay, so they can extricate their own spawn from whatever muddles they get into and you don't have to do any cooking or clear up. On the flip side you will have a terrible headache and the vein in your temple will not stop throbbing to the beat of Uptown Funk for the next 8 hours.
Guests: This is probably the most random assortment of children you will invite - a mix of school kids, nursery pals and the children of people you genuinely like. It's usually more important to manage the relationships between the assorted adults (I recommend Prosecco) as the kids tend to just get on with it.
You will need a large hall & an entertainer. Also Prosecco... and a fully licensed bar. Also, it doesn't matter how you theme it, the girls will turn up dressed as princesses and the boys as superheroes. Social conventions kick in hard at 5. I like to ensure the non-conformists win all the prizes at pass the parcel.
Guests: this is the first school year so you'll probably have to invite at least half the class if only to reciprocate all those other bloody parties you've been to this year. The kids haven't really got established friendship groups yet so it's all a bit scattergun.
By this point it's just you and a screaming horde in a soft play centre. The other parents will fuck off for a pleasant hour or two in a garden centre and not even the promise of a lukewarm glass of prosecco can induce them to stay and watch their children engage in potentially life threatening races down the death slide. Really soft play? How is something called a death slide helpful? It's hardly reassuring when you're stuck there with 10 kids who you barely recognise, haunted by the question, 'If one goes missing will I even notice?' Drink Prosecco & gin from a hip flask to quiet the voices in your head.
Guests: These are now the children that are the most important people in your kid's life. You may know every single fact about them, how amazing their parents are and how much nicer their house is than yours... or you may barely know their names. Damn kids.
At last, you get to do something that might actually interest you - a theatre trip, ice skating, something genuinely fun. As long as you can avoid the one-up-man-ship that comes with these events it's all plain sailing and Prosecco... for now.
Guests: There will probably be only a smattering of small people along for the ride and you probably know them pretty well by this point.
That's all folks. That's all I've managed so far. I know my future holds the shrieking horror that is a sleepover and then there's the terrifying thought of the teenage years when I'll be lucky even to know what they're doing. I'm sure my trusty Prosecco will see me through... won't it?