I love going to large parties.
I do not love going to large parties with my children.
There, I've said it. Going out for the evening with my offspring is not fun.
My heart sinks when we get an evening invitation to a party and are told, very kindly, "the children are invited too." It triggers an internal battle between what I feel is expected of me (to bring the children) and what I want to do (leave them at Nana's so that I can actually enjoy myself.)
Sometimes I forget the potential horror of it. "They're a bit older now," I tell husband, "they'll be fine this time." He shakes his head at my naïveté. Unfortunately he is always proved annoyingly correct.
The evening starts ok. We arrive, both children looking picture perfect. We find an area in which to base ourselves (husband already pulling the 'how loud is this music?' face), get ourselves a drink (arguing with children about coke vs orange juice before compromising on lemonade) and try to locate a friendly face in the crowd.
We are then thrust straight into a balloon battle. The boy has a balloon fixation of huge proportions: he spots the balloons as soon as we enter the room and begins a war of attrition on my ears which consists of a repeated "Can I have a balloon now? Can I have a balloon now? Please can I have a balloon? When can I have a balloon?" He has no understanding of the fact that our hosts have placed these balloons decoratively around the room and do not wish a small child to rip them down and run around the room with them like a chimpanzee on acid.
This is just the beginning. I may even have had a small chance of tuning out the balloon mantra if husband didn't then add a second acapella-style chorus about 20 minutes into the party with his own rendition of "How long have we got to stay? When are we going home? Shall I take the kids home and leave you here?" The male members of our clan are not known for being party people.
At least the girl enjoys a dance (I have high hopes for the future where the two of us attend parties alone and leave the other two at home with a balloon each) but that brings a different form of stress in the fear that she will be trampled underfoot by an over-enthusiastic mummy putting double turns into the 'Uptown Girl' line dance. I know how easy this is due to my own experiences over the years clumping small children during the Macarena.
Other people seem to manage quite successfully to attend parties en famille - chatting, laughing, even having a little dance whilst their children are off playing elsewhere. Whilst I admire greatly their relaxed attitude and faith in their offspring, I have a deeply embedded need to have visuals on my children at all times: presuming that anytime I can't actually see them they are either destroying something, are being pinned down by another child or have escaped onto a busy motorway.
This is a fear often vindicated when I do lose sight of them for more than 5 minutes. If there is a leg-breakingly high stage, they will be attempting to jump from it. If there is a wallet-bustingly expensive piece of DJ equipment they will be tripping over it. And if there is a tottering toddler barely walking who doesn't want a large balloon bounced on his head . . . you get the idea. At least at a large party the music is so loud you can't be heard threatening your children under your breath.
The end of our evening is usually heralded by the over-tired tears of one or both children. Husband leaps on the first teardrop as evidence that we must go home and it is left to me to find our host or hostess and make our apologies.
So, my friends, I would love to come and celebrate your birthday, wedding or anniversary. I will laugh and joke and dance and sing. Just please don't ask me to bring my children.