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Birthday party etiquette for awkward mums.

This year, I have been to as many birthday parties as there are weeks in the year. The average age of the birthday boy or girl has been 7. Bar one, they have all been held at an indoor play centre, aka, the surface of hell. One more, and I fear my soul will be completely destroyed.

And, now, 14 years into motherhood, I am probably what you would consider a veteran of the child’s birthday party. I’ve seen it all. Rides in Limos, swims with dolphins, bowling, shop-a-thons, reptile shows and of course, the fast-food party meltdown. Luckily, they seem to go in cycles and in the not too distant future, I may very well be into my birthday party retirement.

Maddie, now 14, is blissfully old enough for me to drop and run. No matter what the occasion, I rarely need to stay and chat to the parents and/or get involved in the politicking at school. Unless they want to discuss one of her insanely good-looking teachers, then I might stay for an extra few minutes.

She was, however, the child I had to cut my teeth with at birthday parties. This, as an insecure, first-time parent whose desperation was almost palpable, came with its own set of obstacles.

Kids' parties: not so fun when you don't know a soul

The very first party she ever got invited to was to that of the little girl of the coolest couple at the day care centre. I desperately wanted to be friends with them. She was a model, he was... well, I don’t know what he was, but he too was disgustingly good looking and they were the couple that were, while polite, untouchable. Then came the invite to their house for their daughter’s birthday party.

I turned up early. And first. Knowing not a soul. And that’s also how I left. First, early and knowing not a soul. Every time the hot models spoke to me it was like I had some weird speech impediment and could only respond with monosyllabic answers.  Like “Totally!” or “Crazy!” To be fair, it was a weird home party where no one really seemed to be speaking to each other much. The clown was fun though, and I hung out with her.

I begged off early and thanked our Über cool hosts. I was strapping my daughter into her car seat when I felt a weird pain in my groin. And then on my kneecap. I looked down to see that I was standing on a massive ants nest and those suckers had travelled up into my jeans. My first instinct was to dack myself. I mean, they were biting me and they were in my undies! I looked around at the quiet street, saw it was all clear and ripped my jeans down. That’s when I heard this “Bern, you’ve forgottt...”. I turned around to see hot father holding out a party bag.

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So, there I was, standing in my undies, ferreting around inside of them, jigging up and down quietly moaning. To his credit, he didn’t respond to the scene and simply handed me the bag and turned on his heel. Weirdly, there were no return requests for play dates.

Standing in the corner with a piece of birthday cake is tempting... but makes it hard to make friends

So as you can imagine, this being my introduction to children’s parties, I wasn’t particularly confident when I received the next invitation.

This was held at a house again and I was equally early and equally awkward. This time, though, I was lucky enough to have a splendid woman, a lady a little older than I was, who was a veteran to such things that could obviously spot a soul in need and took me under her wing.

This lady, let me name her Zoe - she gave me confidence. She gave me friendship. She gave me solidarity. I love her to this day for arming me with this.

The thing is, I think it’s all so foreign to all of us, this caper. Sure, we all have children but it’s often just as foreign to all of us, this kind of social interaction.

The best thing I can urge, after all this time, is to take a look around you at that Saturday birthday party. Seek out the one that might look he or she needs a little conversation. If you have it in you, to take this step, you might just make a friend for life.

Have you made a friend at a children’s party? Do you found them daunting?

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