I was hoping we could let turning three fly under the radar, I’m reliably informed that at 4 you can do drop off parties, so we will definitely be partying hard next year. However nursery helpfully announced on their notice board that it was Tantrum’s birthday this week. So, it couldn’t be avoided and10 3 year olds were coming to the house for 2 hours and they will only leave if they are given a party bag. She has only just started nursery so there is a lot riding on this party and if I have learnt anything about parenting its that at 3 friends can definitely be bought with a lot of tat.
“Right, we need to get some supplies for your party ok? I need you to be a big girl and help mummy ok?”
she says like butter wouldn’t melt from the front of the trolley as we traverse the Sainsbury’s carpark, but first coffee. The only place to sit is next to a hipster looking twenty nothing on a laptop. She stares at him. He smiles, She stares. He looks away blushing. She stares even harder.
“Sweet Heart concentrate on your chocolate coin.”
I fear I may have used this bribe way too early.
“What’s he doing mummy?” She yells
“I don’t know. Maybe he’s working.” I whisper.
“NO. He is NOT!”
She starts to lean over his shoulder. He shifts uncomfortably.
“Come on let’s go pick a cake” I smile apologetically at the hipster and down the rest of my flat white in one go. About the only skill I learnt during my University days that still comes in useful.
“Wow, look a Paddington cake, that’s perfect for your paddington themed party”
“NO, I don’t LIKE Panting-ton.”
Great. She’s going to love the Paddington Bear party hats and balloons I’ve already had delivered.
“OK, would you like a hedgehog cake?”
“How about Minions?”
She grabs a cake with a sale sticker and cracked icing which can just about still make out it used to be Chase from Paw patrol.
“Oh no, that’s not for birthday girls, that’s for dogs.”
The pensioner in the mobility scooter next to me raises an eyebrow. Keep rolling, the Ovaltine is one aisle over. Which leaves an anti socially small cake with three pigs on it.
“OOOH look, the three little pigs. You love that story.” I shout with all the enthusiasm of a Blue Peter Presenter.
“Tell it to me mummy……NOWWWW”
I proceed to tell the story of The Three Little Pigs, followed by Goldilocks, followed by Snow White while I peruse the free from cake department to make sure I have every fun free eventuality covered. I look round to see her lying on the floor.
“What are you doing?” Silence.
“Hey, lady, what are you doing. We don’t lie on the floor.”
She rolls over onto her front, face down, without making a peep. A skinny, miserable looking lady, presumably a vegan, wheels her trolley around us and I can feel her judgement as she reaches for a loaf of Genius.
“Right, If you don’t get up by the time I count to three I am cancelling your birthday party, taking away your presents and Santa is WATCHING so you have to otherwise you get COAL.” I yell.
“Mummy what’s coal?” What are they teaching them about Christmas at this nursery?
“A fossil fuel, and it’s running out so there is a high chance you won’t even get that this year.”
I am conscious that these threats are somewhat disproportionate but needs must.
“One…Twoooo….I’m on Two, you know what comes next don’t you? Don’t make me count higher….THHR”
She jumps up. Thank Christ, I had no idea what I was going to do at three.
“I need a poo.” Ah of course. Lying on the floor is a perfectly measured response to needing the toilet when you are three.
We leave a trolley that looks like its sponsored by Cadbury, there is a reason her favourite colour is purple. We race off to the toilets as if we are about to miss a train and she announces to everyone we pass “ I need a POOOOO” A full twenty minutes of hand holding and hugging while she narrates each bowel movement later and we are finished in the toilets. I smile apologetically at the mobility scooter pensioner who seems to have been waiting patiently outside for most of that time. We head for the party supplies via the vegetable section to pick up some celery and carrot batons for good measure.
Faced with a wall of bright plastic tat, I buy everything I can see that won’t stain the walls or choke a guest. I have to buy two packs of everything because according to the party supplies industry 8 is the number we should be hosting at children’s birthday parties. Well, no-one told me and I invited 10 and they all accepted, which everyone knows isn’t meant to actually happen.
£180 later and we are back at home surrounded by bags for life. I must remember to add them to the growing collection of carrier bags that I hide in the attic from my selectively frugal husband. I am blowing balloons up with one hand and laying out cupcakes on a cake stand with the other while I try to convince the lady of the hour to put some clothes on. The door bell rings. “Oh hi” Its Sally and her fully dressed daughter.
“Ahh HI! You’re early”
“It’s ten to three.”
“Oh! Is it? Great, do come in” I usher them in with a welcoming smile plastered on my face. Who arrives on time with kids?
“Can I help you” She offers helpfully.
“Ooooh that would be so great. Would you mind packing some party bags for me?”
She follows me through to the kitchen where Bouncy balls, glow sticks, crayons, bubbles, musical instruments, the works are laid out on the work surface. It looks like A Pound Land Black Friday sale. I am feeling particularly smug, these party bags are going to be the key to being invited to playdates for the rest of the term. I chase Tantrum around the kitchen trying to grapple her into her pants.
“Excuse me, but where are the actual party bags?”
And that my friends is why, to get a bunch off hyper 3 year olds off my property by 4pm, I came to be stood on my doorstep handing out bulging Bags For Life.