Thursday, 24 February 2011

Friday Flash: Party Politics



I remember when I was a kid, birthday parties were the talk of the school yard. We’d stand still when someone had small envelopes in their hand, hoping to be one of the chosen ones.

We’d be forced to wear our smartest, scratchiest clothes and we’d turn up at a hall or someone’s house. We’d eat too much, run around a lot and we’d have a brilliant time. Someone would inevitably end up eating too many cakes and throw up.  If we were really lucky, when we left we’d be handed a bag holding a mashed up bit of cake, and occasionally a balloon. Parties were fun because it was about spending time with our friends.


Since I've had children of my own, things seem to have changed. I was clueless about this until my eldest child was three and started being invited to these things. We’d go, and my son would cling to my leg while some lunatic of a parent would attempt to herd three year olds into playing a civilised game of pass-the-parcel or musical statues.

I have four children now, so I’ve seen it all. Parents want their precious child’s party to be bigger and better than that-kid-from-down-the-road’s. The fear of being shown up is foremost in every mind when a birthday approaches.

For years now I have observed these social events with an open mind, and tried to learn from everybody else’s mistakes. I’ve seen it all; from the children fighting over prizes, to the tensed-up mothers having screaming matches.

I stand in the corner of yet another hall. There are sandwiches and cake trodden into the flooring, tables and chairs everywhere and the remaining adults and birthday child look as if they have run a marathon. I wave goodbye and exit rapidly.

Climbing into the front seat of my car, I reflect on yet another party; one in a series of many, yet they get easier to cope with as time goes on. I slip the folded cheque into my pocket and turn the ignition. Jumping Janie does it again.

27 comments:

  1. What a lovely story, wishes I had your elequence to writing lovely short stories.
    Thanks for sharing
    Lesley

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  2. Rebecca, I read this and read this and read this but still am unclear on what happens in the final paragraph... what's a Jumping Janie? (I even googled it!) And what's with the folded cheque?
    The story is wistful and beautiful but I am sure it would be even better if I knew what was happening at the end.. perhaps Jumping Janie is an English thing and I'm just not very well informed.. oh wait, the latter is absolutely true!!!!

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  3. If only! Kids parties were the thing that horrified me most when I was a 'stepparent' especially in London where everything seems to done at a competitive standard. Story brought a knowing nod and a wry smile!

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  4. Cathy, she's cashing in on her knowledge and has become a children's entertainer ;o)

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  5. OH!
    D'oh!!!!
    Yes! It all makes SO much sense now, sorry!
    Thank you! Terrific story!

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  6. Don't worry, Cathy, thanks so much for asking, I am glad you liked the story.

    Thanks to everyone else for the comments as well.

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  7. That first paragraph, yes oh yes, encapsulates so many things about the subject. And wearing your scratchiest clothes too - yes!!! This read with feeling :-)

    marc nash

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  8. I dug that she cashed in on that life experience. That's an amusing twist to pull off in such a short time.

    "Parents want their precious child’s party to be bigger and better than that-kid-from-down-the-road’s. "

    I wonder how many parents don't want it, but feel arcane obligation. Especially in my early years I had some really generous parents, party-wise, but they were danged grumpy when it was over.

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  9. So so true, John. It's totally down to a feeling of obligation isn't it.

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  10. Thanks, Marc. Yes the scratchy clothes. We've all been there ;o)

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  11. If you can't beat them, join them. Might as well profit from the madness if you can't do anything to stop it! Definitely agree with the route your character took :-)

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  12. Great read! Love the twist at the end. :)

    One year, my three were given a choice. A party or a day at a large shopping mall, and extra gift and the cinema with a meal afterwards. They opted for the family day. I loved it. We never had a party again. We then took each of their friends, plus those who had invited them to parties (at individual times) to our caravan for a weekend. It worked well for us all.

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  13. I have seen certain showing-off parties as well, so I know what you're talking about.
    I didn't understand Jumping Janie either, so had to read the comments. Nice twist.

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  14. As a grandparent, I now see birthday parties like you are talking about. They're kind of like mini-weddings, in terms of the planning, theme, expense, expectations. Good heavens! Can't kids just have fun?

    Allie
    http://24inmymind.blogspot.com

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  15. Oh the memories you brought about Rebecca! I think I won when I gave my son a pirate party for his 4th birthday, even dressed as a pirate myself and hid clues all over the house to the treasure chest full of fake gold coins! :)

    So glad this part of my life is (nearly) over!

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  16. I've got all this to look forward to! Great story - such a simple idea turned into a lovely flash

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  17. Good story! Life experiences make for the best careers at times.

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  18. Excellent story. I love how you've managed to keep the twist right up to the last line!

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  19. I have to admit, I needed your explanation in the comments, too. Yeah, kid's parties are certainly different these days. This is like a front-line reporter's notebook.

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  20. Nice! I was reading it as a memoir (precise memories just like mine) then the ending turns the tables.
    AliB

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  21. Made me remember all the efforts my mother went to to throw me parties. I'd walk around in my fancy dresses and feel the princess. For kids it must be fun, but for parents it must me a nightmare.

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  22. Having young ones of my own, I can so relate to this scenario. You added a clever little twist at the end.
    Adam B @revhappiness

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  23. This takes me back to a time when ours were little, I usually tried to do a runner to the pub though if I could get awaqy with it. :-)

    I liked the neat little twist at the end.

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  24. I was settling in (agreeably) for a rant about the simple birthday party gone commercial..blah, blah, but got an unexpected surprise. Cool twist ending!

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  25. Ah, so she's turned the insanity into a profitable venture. Good for her. :)
    ~jon

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  26. I never got invited to a birthday party when I was a child. Not once :( I do make sure that my son has the most amazing birthday parties now. Overcompensating? Oh yes indeedy.

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  27. Aaaaaaaaaaaagh... this made me laugh but please come and hold my hand, I have 17 of them descending on me today. Last time I felt like a zebra watching lions approach on the Serengeti; they were going to destroy my house and leave me a dismembered, gibbering wreck... (15 kids aged 4-6, small house, deepest/darkest/wettest winter -- activities required!). Today, it's 17 kids, aged 7-8 and I have copped out with a Jumping Janie because I have hit the waddle and grunt phase of pregnancy. I'm not scared of looking shabby, I want to make sure there's an adult agile enough to catch any that try to escape before the cavalry, sorry I mean parents, arrive... help?

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