parents

"I hosted my daughter's birthday party at home....and almost lost my mind."

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When I had my eighth birthday party many years ago, I threw a tantrum and locked myself into my room while all my friends stood outside and banged on the door.

History nearly repeated itself this year when my daughter turned eight. Yep, I nearly threw a tantrum and locked myself in my room again.

For the first time ever, I held my daughter’s birthday party at home. Why?

Because I felt she was too old to go to a children’s indoor play centre like she had in previous years.

Because I thought it would be a simpler and cheaper option.

Because I thought it might be fun.

Because I am totally out of my mind. Clearly.

Once I’d got my daughter to agree to having the party at our house, I suddenly started thinking about the things in the backyard that needed fixing before nine screaming kids swarmed all over it.

The wooden sleepers that were starting to rot away. The retaining wall that had bricks missing. The shed door that kept falling off. Just over $1500 later, the backyard was ready. But then I thought, what if it rains? The house can’t cope with the demands of nine pent-up children (and maybe I can’t either).

With a few days to go before the party, I started to think about everything I had to organise. With an adult party, you just buy some alcohol and sit back.

With a kids’ party, it’s not nearly as easy. You have to have games, prizes, food… it has to be meticulously planned, or you’ll have bored kids roaming your house. That could be very dangerous.

“It has to be meticulously planned, or you’ll have bored kids roaming your house.”

I madly researched party games online. I went on a shopping trip to buy little prizes, and my daughter and son liked them so much that they made off with half of them and I had to go on another shopping trip to buy more.

I panicked about food. How do you make sure all the hot food is ready at the same time when you have one tiny, dodgy oven? And what exactly do you serve at kids’ parties these days? Do you need to ring every parent and find out if their child has dietary restrictions for health or religious reasons?

Related: This 3-year-old’s birthday party is not like other kids’ parties.

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Then there was the balloon issue. I promised my daughter I would get a canister of helium so she could have as many helium balloons as she liked. Sadly, she took a look at the side of the canister with a warning against inhaling helium and a graphic of a dead stickman, and she developed a terror that it was going to kill us all. “Don’t inhale! Don’t inhale!” she kept begging.

The night before the party I realised I owned no pop music released in the past two decades. I had to get to know Taylor Swift, fast.

Finally, the day of the party arrived. I was sure I would be ready by 2pm, but unfortunately everyone started arriving at 1pm, because… well, because that was the time I had written on the invitations. (I wish I was making this up).

My daughter loved all her presents, especially a craft project involving ponies. In fact, she loved it so much that she sat on the floor and began working on it, while the party carried on around her.

I started the kids on the games I’d spent hours laboriously preparing, including a treasure hunt, and they were over in minutes. Kids kept letting go of their helium balloons outside and asking for more.

Related: Hosting a kids party in the park is about to get REALLY expensive.

My four-year-old son had too much general excitement, and burst into tears every time someone broke one of the rules of Murder in the Dark. I lost my voice, perhaps due to screaming too much during Murder in the Dark, or just stress.

Then it was all over, and I was left to look at the remains of the cake, the trampled seedlings in the backyard and in the carpet and the dozens of burst balloons on the floor. (Yes, I did think the game Balloon Stomp sounded like a good idea at the time).

But despite all that, it was a hit, and all it cost me was my sanity and a bill for carpet cleaning. My daughter had fun, and so did her friends. But I think it’s going to take me a lot more than a year to recover.

Here are some classic birthday party games…

What are your tips for surviving a child’s birthday party?

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