DILEMMA: A parent has just called because their child wasn’t invited, but “she really wants to come”. You know that your birthday girl secretly doesn’t like her, and that she is absolutely not invited…
SOLUTION: Yikes, you didn’t expect this to happen. With phone in hand you have three options. One: you can take the cowardly route and let the little darling come – children’s friendships change all the time, after all, and the birthday girl will be too excited to care on the day anyway. Two: save face by pretending you mislaid the invite and then lie, explaining that “We can only have limited numbers as the venue/entertainer/my house isn’t insured for any more.” Three: if you’re feeling brave, tell the truth: “Sorry, but Jane really doesn’t like your boring daughter, so surely the last thing you’d want is for her to come and get ignored.”
DILEMMA: The party entertainer has failed to turn up. Now what?
SOLUTION: Imagine the scenario: thirty excited children are crowded into your house, anticipating a fun-filled afternoon of activities and entertainment. Your mobile rings. Priscilla (and her performing pythons) is terribly, terribly sorry, but she has been struck down with a dreadful virus and she can’t make it. You may want to screech down the phone “NO! I don’t care how ill you are – get here now!” Instead, take a deep breath and put plan B into action. Firstly, ask any friends or parents who are still dropping children off to help – you may actually find that someone has always harboured a dream of being a children’s entertainer (well, maybe!). Then, grab your iPod (which hopefully has a child-friendly selection of tunes) and play traditional games like musical bumps and statues, musical chairs and sleeping lions. As long as you keep them active until the food is served, you’ll survive.
DILEMMA: One little party-goer is determined to destroy your house. How to keep your cool while you keep the party going…
SOLUTION: Tempting though it may be, you won’t actually be able to lock the little blighter in the bathroom for the duration of the party, so you’ll have to deal with the situation. The lure of prizes may stop the child (brat) from rampaging. Make it clear that only well-behaved children will receive them, though. Involve her in running all the games – the old trick of keeping your enemy close often works wonders. Also, a little bit of extra, positive attention may help to focus her mind on how to be constructive rather than destructive. Still playing up? The threat of calling her parents and sending her home early usually works.
DILEMMA: Your mother-in-law is trying to take over!
SOLUTION: Let her. Who wants to run around like a maniac at a children’s party anyway? She won’t do it again.
DILEMMA: As a party guest is being dropped off, his mother mentions that he’s allergic to balloons/food colouring/nuts/parties…
SOLUTION: You would hope that parents would be sensible enough to tell you in good time of any allergies or potential problems so that alternative arrangements could be made. However, if they drop the bombshell at the same time as they drop off their child, saying, “Emma is actually terrified of balloons/loud noise/the other children”, then you will have to insist that they stay. You can’t be expected to cater for their child’s every foible. It’s a party for goodness sake!
DILEMMA: Your child has just opened his presents and reports loudly – in front of the giver – that he hates the gift.
SOLUTION: Avoid getting into this toe-curling situation in the first place by agreeing that all presents will be opened at home later (you won’t regret it). If it’s too late, and the damage has been done, then you will just have to crawl out of the hole by apologising (aka grovelling) on behalf of your ungrateful birthday child. Ensure you have a few gentle words with your offspring: “Say thank you for each and every gift, or we will play pass the parcel and everyone else can have a present.” This should suffice.
DILEMMA: Some parents have dropped off younger siblings along with the invited guest – leaving you to babysit for the afternoon
SOLUTION: How rude is that? Be absolutely clear who is invited from the start by naming the party guest on the invitation. Even so, you will be amazed at how some parents can be quite determined to grab any opportunity for some precious child-free time. If it really doesn’t matter how many more you have, then welcome them graciously to the party (you might want to ensure the parents are aware of their actions by joking that you’ll be charging the usual day-care rates). “Have some pencils and paper handy for a colouring corner,” advises Katie Burnett, Director of Les Enfants party planners, “and ask one of your good friends to help keep things ship-shape.” But, if there must be a limit, thrust some spare party bags in the direction of the parent whilst gently directing her and the child towards the door. Say firmly but cheerfully, “Pick-up time is 3pm. See you all then!” Then get away quickly, so the parents – and not you – are left to deal with their wailing offspring.
DILEMMA: What can you do when your child comes down with an illness on the day?
SOLUTION: First, make sure it’s a genuine ailment. Sometimes the birthday child can just be a bit overwhelmed at the thought of being host and needs some reassurance. If it is for real, then you have no option but to call the invitees and defer until another day. After all, what’s the point of having a party without the main attraction?
DILEMMA: The children have all started fighting and nothing you do is calming the situation…
SOLUTION: Your house has now become a battleground. You may want to run for cover, but you really do need to regain control. The trick is to use the ancient Roman tactic for victory: divide and conquer. Once the warring factions have been separated, distract them using whatever means necessary – or available. Giving small groups a chance to win a prize may provide a temporary ceasefire.
DILEMMA: When it comes to helping on the big day, Dad always disappears to the garden shed…
SOLUTION: Before the day, ask what jobs your partner might actually enjoy doing – perhaps it is DJ-ing, or doing the barbecue – then get him to sign a contract. If he does disappear, then lock him in the shed, and let him out to do the cleaning up.
DILEMMA: The party finished at 4.30pm, but it’s now seven o’clock and there is one child whose parents have still not appeared.
SOLUTION: All you want to do is chill out but there is one little person still to be collected. Pop in a DVD and call the parents (on the mobile numbers you collected at the start of the party). They may have a perfectly reasonable excuse for their no-show, in which case it won’t be long. If, however, they are taking undue advantage, tell them in no uncertain terms that the party is over. They should soon arrive full of apologies and bearing a lovely gift for you.
DILEMMA: There’s always one really painful brat at every party – but this time, it’s your very own holy terror
SOLUTION: It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to! Tears and tantrums should be anticipated and a small amount of bratty behaviour from the birthday celebrant can be tolerated. Too much though and the party will quickly go downhill. Take the focus off your child for a while by breaking the party into smaller groups that can do separate activities. Then, while the groups are all distracted, take your child aside and find out what is going on – don’t be angry, just ask what is upsetting them. You might find it is a simple problem that can be easily resolved. If not, just remind her that the party will soon be over – and she won’t be having one again for a very long time!