By Mariam Mokhtar
Organising a child's birthday party used to be simple. The party was held at home and the mother had as much fun planning the party, as did the child who was anticipating his birthday. If you have a house with a garden, or live close to a park, you can organise a picnic theme party or have a barbecue in the garden.
Even if you live in an apartment, where space is a premium, and you do not want complaints from the neighbours, most apartment blocks have a communal room you could utilise.
Don't tell your child what games there will be, because if you are short of time, they may be disappointed. If you cannot accommodate, or manage, more than ten children, then make this clear to your child.
For young children, give the invitation to the mother of your child's friend. Some children forget to hand the invitation to their mothers, and you could end up preparing food and activities for 20 children, but find that no one turns up.
So what are the worst aspects of a child's party? Nowadays, birthday parties are not so simple. They have become a rite of passage for some people to show off.
1. The fast food restaurant party.
Being taken to a fast food restaurant may be a monthly treat for some children. For busy mothers, it is sometimes a weekly necessity. A quick stop for dinner at the fast food joint, after tuition.
Some children do not consider a birthday party, at a fast food restaurant, to be a treat. They may have the party bags, the special invitation cards, the party hats and the happy meals, but apart from that, they only have a fixed amount of time to celebrate, their food choices are limited and outside entertainment, like a party clown or magician, is forbidden. One child said, "These fast-food parties lack imagination."
2. The five-star party treatment.
Some mothers find the invitation to take their four-year-old to a birthday party, in a five-star hotel more stressful than organising one at home, for their own child.
They worry about the present for the birthday-child, and wonder if it is expensive enough, because they do not want to be labelled a cheapskate. They worry that their child's clothes and shoes are not grand enough. They also worry that they may not look presentable and may buy clothes, shoes and presents costing much more than they would have liked.
One mother, who stayed at a party with her four-year-old said, "You could see the condescending looks of some of the rich mothers, who were scrutinising the wrapping of some of the presents. Did they think the birthday child was going to appreciate the cost of the wrapping paper and bows? He's probably not going to notice any of this. It was a party for the mothers to show off and name-drop."
3. The people who do not turn up
The children who do not turn up, despite saying they will come, are as bad as those who do not respond, despite the RSVP on the card.
Some people lack the courtesy to inform their host and this makes it difficult to gauge the number and quantity of party packs, and food to prepare.
You would have thought that with the internet, the telephone and the ease of sending text messages, people would respond. Modern technology cannot excuse bad manners.
4. The mothers who do nothing to help.
Often, mothers drop-off their children and pick them up at the end of the party, usually after two hours. Some mothers want to park themselves in the host's house, but just sit around and do nothing to help. They turn up their noses at the cake, the food, the party packs and the games you have organised.
5. The mothers who park their other children with you.
There are some mothers who take advantage of a party, by parking their other children with you. You could welcome the extra guests, if you had the extra help, but even if you did, how would you entertain an older, or younger, child? You are preoccupied with ensuring that there is sufficient food and drink, that the party games run smoothly, and that everyone is happy.
The best advice is to decline the parent's request to leave her children with you. You do not provide a free baby-sitting service and if the child were to wander off, because he is bored, as none of his friends are there, he might be hurt. You could open yourself to litigation, or at the very least, create bad blood between you and your child's friend's parents.