The 1st Birthday Party
Don't kid yourself that this is for your baby. This is an opportunity for you to acceptably drink alcohol in the middle of the day while you pat yourself on the back for 'making it through' the first year. Your baby will not appreciate that he or she has 'guests' (ie. other babies, relatives and knackered mums that have squeezed themselves back into their skinny jeans in order to feel normal but are still wearing black tops because when other babies cry their breasts leak) and will definitely not appreciate the many (tasteful, preferably wooden) presents, preferring the paper instead.
The Soft Play Party
This takes place in a former factory that has boiler lagging and scramble nets attached to every available surface. Where it normally costs you £5.00 to get in, you will instead spend £11 a head for the added extras of nuggets and chips on paper plates (and if you go to Eddie Catz you'll also get a plate of crudités thrown in that the children will ignore) plus a visit from a budget 'character' that will either scare the children or will be scared by the children as they try to wrench his tail off.
There is nowhere for parents to properly relax so they will head off into town to do some shopping leaving you to spend most of the party worrying where the "little boy who has a tendency to start fights with other children" has got to.
The Professional Entertainer Party
Some of these guys cost £300 - THREE HUNDRED POUNDS! Their waiting lists are months long and they have seen you bloody coming. You are guaranteed a great set, children in tears because of a sinister puppet or because the entertainer has called them their pet name in front of all their school friends and angry parents as the entertainer starts singling them out for kicks - "look everyone, that daddy's got a baldy head!" and "that mummy's eaten all the biscuits!". I've yet to meet anyone that's done this kind of party more than once.
The Do It Yourself Party
So you go to a Professional Entertainer Party and think "that's money for old rope - I could totally do that! I'm going to hire the village hall, make all the sandwiches, decorations and party bags the night before and then we'll play party games just like when I was five and we all had a party in the front room." This is a BAD MOVE although you won't realise that at first because it will start off being the best party in the world. Then you'll lose your audience as the children realise that there's 30 of them and (at most) 5 grown ups (all the other parents have pissed off because there's no way they're spending three hours making small talk and besides, Next has a sale on). The children will refuse to play Musical Statues because "that boy is always cheating", someone will have a nosebleed, and the "girl who only eats mini-sausages" will eat everybody's mini-sausages which causes a riot. You will wish you'd paid £300.
The Whole Class Party
Do it once because, frankly, you have to. Then never do it again. It's like the 'Do It Yourself Party' but on speed. It will take you a week to recover, and your child two days to open all the presents (I'm not a big fan of conspicuous consumption but I'd rather not hold a party than earnestly ask my friends to plant an acorn on my child's behalf instead of buying another necklace-making kit).
The Really Easy Party
This has just started to happen in my life and it is *bliss*. By the time your children get to 10 they're (hopefully) free of tit for tat party invites and the whole 'Whole Class Party' thing has died a death. Pick two to four friends, take them to the cinema, bite to eat afterwards and you are done! Brilliant! I shared this opinion with my daughter's friend's mum today and she conspiratorially whispered "I know, it's great - we do it too!". Now this may sound a little smug on my behalf but I plan to enjoy every minute of this stage because I know what it is to be at an:
Out of Control Teenage Party
What to say here without incriminating anyone? Let's just put it this way:
Clean up operation that included having to scrape vomit from the pocket of a pool table
So until I get payback for my own terrible teenage behaviour, here's to Really Easy Parties - long may they continue!