The other week we attended the firth birthday party of the the son of Elf's childminder. We struck gold with our childminder and she is still a good friend. Her son, we'll call him Blondy, and Elf got on like brothers - they fought a lot but they are better friends now they are older. Blondy is one of the youngest in his year at school and is just about to start Year 1. His party was at the local gymnastic centre, where Elf used to take his trampolining class. We turned up, Daddy in tow too as we know the family.
As expected, Elf knew only Blondy and I recognised just one or two friends. Blondy's mum confirmed that they were nearly all friends from school. Lesson number 1: Your child's friend demographic will change dramatically once he starts school.
Then, not expected really, all the parents save a few disappeared! I saw a mum handing Blondy's mum a business card saying "Right I'm off, here's my number if you need me." All very well I thought, but which one is her child? I think Blondy's mum expected this, and I have seen it at parties before, but it's still a shock to me. Lesson number 2: Find out if the parents are staying. Better still hold a swimming party, they'll HAVE to stay. Won't they? The days of chatting to the other NCT mums over tea in the corner while the kids try to slice each others' heads off with their pirate swords - gone forever? The chance to gossip to the other nursery mums about that member of staff who was caught eating the children's food? I actually like meeting my son's friends' parents, but I remember a friend's husband saying when their daughter had just started nursery "I don't want to be spending every weekend at some child's birthday party". Each to their own.
Back to the party. Because I know Blondy, I felt obliged to keep an eye on unparented guests , party-orphans, during the play time. I helped one child swing across the bar to the other side; I encouraged one to join in with my son in the pit; I was on the look-out for boys doing the I Don't Want A Wee I'm Just Dancing jig that they always do, or a child crying because they'd hurt themselves. (I hoped other mums would be so kind if I weren't there.) I thought Drop'n'Run at nursery was almost a crime, party-orphans take the biscuit!
At food time, the guests were treated to a mighty feast. (Did I mention that Blondy's mum is a professional cake maker and has been on Masterchef?) I settled Elf in, and stood behind him when he asked. (Why do the children expect their parents to stand behind them? It also makes photos look ridiculous - a child with the lower-half of an adult behind them!)
Next to Elf were two obvious party-orphans with nothing on their plates, not confident enough to help themselves. After filling Elf's plate with sausage rolls and ham sarnies, I asked them if they'd like a sausage roll. A ham sarnie? A cheesy puff? A strawberry? It went on. I mopped up their drink when one of them spilled it and pleased with myself, almost smug, that I'd done such an altruistic deed, can you imagine how I felt when behind me, the mum of those two poor party-orphans stopped chatting to the woman the other side of her and said to me "There's always one who spills their drink eh!" and promptly went to kneel in between her son and daughter, in the space that I'd just dried up for her!
Lesson 3: Make sure each child has a name badge, and a dot on it indicating "My mum is at the precinct either shopping in New Look or having a latte in Costa". Party-orphans - that's that last time I'll be taken in!