It’s 3pm, the end of the school day or the middle of the afternoon for the rest of society. I first retrieve her coat, satchel, kit bag and clear her in tray of the day’s admin, typically her paintings which have a disturbing amount of angry, black strokes. Who knew potato painting could evoke such anger? I have a quick rummage in her neighbour’s tray to check their artwork is equally morose and am alarmed by the delicate pink hues on the page. Fighting the urge to permanently borrow the happy painting as a present for my mother in law, I spot a neat little card in Tantrum’s in-tray, perhaps it’s the appointment card for the child psychologist. I tear the envelope open with my teeth and inside is a card with a Santa coming down a chimney and below it reads:
Ho, Ho, Ho, you made the nice list and are invited to the party!
I check Little Miss Pretty Painting’s tray again and it doesn’t appear that she has received one, so it can’t be a whole class affair, and it has her name on it so someone must like Tantrum. I feel full with pride, has she made a friend? This is big news and the first insight I have had into her time at nursery.
I broach the subject of the party on the walk home but as usual she is busy expressing distaste for the organic fruit bar I have brought for her end of school snack and she is demanding chocolate buttons in exchange for footsteps in front of mums whose offspring are gaily skipping down the road eating a handful of alfalfa sprouts.
When we arrive home I retrieve the invitation from her book bag. It is unexpectedly formal and reads:
Tantrum is invited to a party given by Esther Lamb, please RSVP Lambparty@gmail.com, and at the very bottom of the invitation the word Alex.
Any party invitation where the organizer goes to the effort of having an e-mail address for the party was not going to scrimp on the wine, so we are definitely going.
I cram a handful of chocolate buttons info my face and ponder the invitation, feeling under pressure not to ruin the first friendship she has ever had by committing a social faux pas.
Is Esther Lamb the new friend or is it Alex? Tantrum denies any knowledge of anyone with either name. Thinking back to our wedding invitations I assume that Esther Lamb must be the mother so the next big question is is Alex a girl or a boy? I took a punt on boy.
I quickly bosh out an e-mail to tell Esther how delighted Josie was to be invited to Alex’s birthday.
After a 3rd birthday party worthy of its own website, let alone e-mail address (I’m talking a bouncy castle and an entertainer), we are stood in a receiving line of overtired children and parents waiting to thank our host and get on our merry way. Tantrum is clutching a Paw Patrol birthday card addressed to Alex and a Lego police helicopter in a blue gift bag and I am face to face with a lady who makes Nigella look a bit of slob.
“Hi, lovely to meet you I’m Alex” she purrs. Oh god she is Alex!
“You too, great party” I try and purr back but it comes out like a Sean Connery impersonation.
I pride Tantrum’s hands from clutching the gift and hand it to Alex. With a rising panic I blurt out:
“Ha so really funny mix up, I thought Esther was in fact a boy called Alex. My mistake, so sorry.”
As I say this I look down at a little girl in a pink dress, pink fairy wings and pink hair. Her bottom lip trembles and she starts to cry into her mum’s leg. “I’m not a boyyyyyy”
“Oh HIIIII ESTHER, great PARTY, so Josie bought you a helicopter, every girl needs a helicopter don’t they. Ha ha. Happy birthday Esther. What a lovely little name”
QuAs an automatic response to any other child crying in case she gets the blame or has to share anything with them Tantrum immediatelyo turns victim and starts to wail.
I smile apologetically, mouth “Sorreee” and offer unconvincingly “We must do a play date next term.” I edge out the front door under a cloud of shame.
“Thanks for my present” quips Better Than Nigella with a wry smile. Eurgh, she is funny too. She would have been a good mum friend if I wasn’t such a socially awkward mum clown.
And that my friend is why I am unfamiliar with the social etiquette of party invitations and probably the root cause of Tantrum’s demonic art.
Oh and Merry Christmas.