Motherland, BBC2, 10pm: How to survive children’s parties
- Credit: BBC/Delightful Industries/Merman
Motherland is the TV comedy that jaded, tired parents across the land have been waiting for, a warts-and-all expose of the truth about having small children.
It's a blistering portrayal of parenting as it really is: hideous competition in the playground, judgemental glances from grandparents, learning to work the system at the office and dealing with some of the worst humans on the planet (other parents).
Episode one of Motherland sees events organiser Julia (the brilliant Anna Maxwell-Martin) reluctantly inviting the entire class to her daughter's birthday party in the hope it will win her babysitting favours – she does this stuff for a living, it'll be a breeze, right? Wrong.
These days, a birthday party is the very currency of social acceptance in parenting circles. Ideally, you will have up-cycled a pedal bin you found in a skip to become a pinata, sourced Fairtrade snacks from a farmers' market, commissioned an illustrator to create bespoke invitations, filled party bags with manure laced with wild flower seeds to create instant meadows and crafted a cake the size of the Eiffel Tower out of beetroot cake.
With all this in mind, I have compiled a handy guide to surviving children's parties which could probably be summed up in one sentence: 'Outsource the whole thing to someone else'.
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Eight dreadful truths about children's parties:
1)If your child is three or younger, they will NEVER REMEMBER their birthday parties. Take a moment to absorb this information and then think twice before you spend two months before the big day crafting a life-size Viking ship out of cardboard which will form the centrepiece of your elaborate 'find the Viking gold' game, a game that every child under the age of four will ignore in favour of that children's party classic: 'running up and down the village hall while screaming'.
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2) A particularly passive-aggressive tactic is to have a fancy-dress party with a theme – this means that not only will guests have to stump up for a present, they may also have to fork out for an outfit or, worse still, their parents may have to make one. My son once went to a party where the theme was 'construction worker'. I resisted all my YMCA urges.
3) Whatever money it takes for you to not have to entertain small children, it is worth it. Uncle Giggles may charge £600 an hour, leer at the better-looking mothers and hand you a decidedly phallic balloon model at the end of the party, but he is cheap at twice the price if he gives you enough breathing space to knock back a plastic cup full of vodka while no one is looking. At one point in your career as a party host for nippers, you will believe that you have what it takes to keep young children happy at parties. You do not. Unless you are Uncle Giggles and can craft something unspeakably rude out of latex.
4) Do not fall into the trap of entertaining parents as well as children. If parents insist on hanging around at parties when their children are perfectly old enough to be left on their own, they must fend for themselves. If they ask you if they can have a cup of tea, show them where the kettle is. If they try and eat the party food, watch them eat it and then tell them that the last person who touched that piece of cake had threadworms. These people must learn.
5) Any time you spend making healthy snacks for the party food table is utterly wasted. My favourite party food story is from my son's fifth birthday party when a lurking parent told me, as she surveyed the table of neon, E-number laden rubbish that I had provided in the name of nutrition, that her child CHOSE not to eat junk food, hated chocolate and preferred fruit and vegetables to crisps or sweets. Her daughter then arrived at her side with her face crammed full of Monster Munch and chocolate. Horrified, she said: 'Did you get any carrot sticks, darling?' 'Carrot sticks are for poo-poo heads,' her progeny replied. Hooray!
6) Someone's child will have some form of grim toileting accident and it will inevitably be one whose parents actually have gone home rather than hang around expecting you to make them cups of tea.
7) Party bags are meant to be filled with cheap, flammable rubbish that could be sent straight to landfill if you cut out the middle man/child.
8) Consider making your own goodie bag to open after the party: make sure it contains wine, painkillers and a video message to your future self that includes footage of you icing a cake to look like a haunted mansion in Scooby Doo at 3.45am the night before the party, trying not to cry in the kitchen after someone has pointed out that this is the eighth mermaid-themed party they've been to in a month and clearing up bright orange kiddie sick after Tarquin's Wotsit binge. Console yourself with the knowledge that by the time they're 10, your kids won't want parties with entertainers and party food. What they'll want is a house party at your place that they've advertised on Facebook and which ends with a visit from the police and a huge home insurance claim.