Saturday morning, 10am. My first thought is that this is very early to be having a party. Who has a party at 10am? Not a 22-year-old hipster, who would only be wrapping up the festivities.
The answer is pretty obvious: children have birthday parties at 10am, which I figure is a parent’s way of getting it over with early so that everyone can do something else. Having reached an age where my children’s weekend social events rival mine, I am in a soft-play area surrounded by a roomful of strangers and 30 screaming children at a place called Little Dinosaurs.
It’s what you might call, in simple terms, a form of torture. Terrorist interrogators, take note.
But I am determined to try to mingle for the sake of the Raging Bull’s popularity at school. As a full-time working mother I feel like I might be unintentionally ruining my children’s chances of being popular. I can never invite kids over and feed them cookies, scoring essential brownie points; I can’t reciprocate play dates; and I can’t help out in the classroom. I am essentially invisible and not highly desirable because I can’t do favors for other parents, ever.
So the first thing I do is introduce myself to the woman holding presents. I figure she must be there in some Official Capacity. And she is. She tells me that her little girl – who is sharing the party with two other children – talks about the Raging Bull non stop, from the very first day of pre-school. Unfortunately, I’ve never heard of this child, nor do I have a clue who she is. The first I heard of her was when I saw the invitation to the party.
I say bravely, ‘Well, I must meet your daughter, then.’ I say this as if a four-year-old child would take any interest in me. Let’s face it, I’d be of more interest if I could make animal-shaped balloons or was dressed up as Snow White.
I decide the coffee bar is a safe bet, and getting a drink has given me a renewed sense of purpose. I try to be friendly so I say nonchalantly to someone ordering drinks: ‘If I don’t get a coffee soon I will have a headache.’ I flash this man a wry smile.
He turns out to be one of the hosts. I am now convinced he thinks I’m rude for insinuating his party is the cause of my headache. My discomfort increases when I find out that the coffee is on the house. It’s like a wedding but instead of free booze we get free caffeine.
I eventually meet a mother who also lives in a basement flat with mold on the walls. This is probably the highlight of the morning.
By the time the cakes come out, the kids are wired on a mixture of juice, sugar and the contagiousness of high spirits. Someone is going to get hurt or lose their hearing.
There was a time when a party with strangers meant going to someone’s house with booze and a tingly sense of anticipation. We’d show up to the house close to midnight, vaguely knowing someone who knew someone who might have once lived in the house with the party. Everyone would eventually end up talking in the kitchen.
Now it means picking presents for children you’ve never met, guessing whether they might prefer a flip-top Toy Story watch or a car that also turns into a gun.
It was easier when all I had to do was choose between beer and wine.