A closer look at children’s parties

Lottie Limb 12 May 2015

With age, we put on rose-tinted spectacles, and our childhood days become hazy and blurred, filled with sickly sweet memories of happiness and freedom. They become 'better', perfect and Edenic; a prelapsarian idyll where we can envisage ourselves running naked down grassy pastures with not a care in the world. Our memories become an escape from the drudgery of today, but most of all they become untrue; stories as fictional as the fairy tales that used to fill our heads.

The one exception, however, that shatters this innocent bliss for me, is the terror that came with children’s’ parties. I am under no spellbound illusion of what these hellish nightmares actually entailed, and no matter the time, or prescription of lenses, this will not change.

Many still conceive that the birthday parties of our youth, were simply havens of bouncy castles and picnic blankets, with cocktail sausages and pork pies as far as the eye can see: the clowns, the face painting, the dressing up, the party bags, beaded necklaces and above all: the cake.

What most people are too willing to forget, however, are the realities behind this extravagant stage set. I remember the competitiveness of dressing up, where little girls would spend weeks trying to find the perfect princess outfit, only to end up crying when it gets ketchup or crayon on, or covered in mud when their prince charming has pushed them over. These same little girls would wear their mother’s eye shadow and pretend to be grown up, firmly believing that these parties were just like the real balls that Cinderella went to.

Parents were just as bad, with dads arguing over the best way to light the BBQ and mums arguing over the best recipes for a lemon drizzle cake. Ultimately, I remember the children’s parties of my youth as being more of a fight than fete and I am quite relieved they are now in the distant past.

And there was always the Augustus Gloop who made the most of the ‘all you can eat’ and managed to throw up over everything and anything remotely pretty and pink. So many parties, and brand new shoes, were ruined with the shame that came with being the unwilling victim of a literal chocolate fountain.

The parties of our younger years show many parallels with the parties of today, and like them, we still more often than not only remember the good bits, submerging the actualities within our subconscious. Becoming sick from eating too many Foxes’ iced party rings is just replaced with chundering from downing too much Smirnoff Ice, and humiliating yourself in ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ has simply evolved into the embarrassment that comes with ‘spin the bottle’. It seems all parties stem from the same basics, but, as you get older, you become the party planner instead of your parents. We still wear fancy dress, paint our faces and play silly games, and isn’t that what it is all about? Partying then and now, has given us a chance to suspend our disbelief in reality for a brief period of time, and just have fun and let loose. The parties of today are not as innocent as they once were, but still; who can really resist the cake?