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  • Helen McNutt

Making My Son’s 4.5 Birthday Party All About Me

Updated: Sep 27, 2019

Yesterday we had Raff’s four-and-a-half birthday party. He was born in early January. So was Bear. You’d think after seven years of birthdays happening then that they might not take me by surprise every year like they do, but there you go. Half birthdays in summer it is.

I began getting ready for the party the day before by going to Cash and Carry. This is a job I love. I only get to go once or twice a year so it is still super exciting. So much stuff! So cheap! Actually, not that much cheaper, but because there’s so much of it, in such big packets and in such austere surroundings, you end up thinking everything is a bargain.

I made the beginner error of hurtling through the doors without signing in. Although the burning shame of looking like an over-excited Cash and Carry novice was lessed by all the lovely booze heaped up in great big lovely piles, at the entranceway.

The other thing you need to know about Cash and Carry if you don’t want to look like a novice is that it requires quite a lot of maths too. The box of Fab ice lollies doesn’t tell you how many lollies are in it, it says things like 6 X 8 X 58ml instead. Bring a calculator, or an abacus or something.

The pricing is not clear either. I bought the biggest block of cheese I have ever seen in my life, 5 kilograms, for £5.99. And I was delighted because not only was it incredibly cheap it had won medals and everything. Usually when you buy things in big pieces for very little money they are shit. Imagine my disappointment when I got home and realised the cheese cost £29.95. I called up the store, with my best Points of View I’d-like-to-make-a-complaint-please-thank-you-very-much voice. The lady on the phone told me, in her best patient-voice-for-thickos that it was £5.99 per kilogram. I mumbled something dignified about that not being very clear on the shelf label, then turned over the cheese and saw £29.95 written on the side.

Having said all this, one huge bargain did happen. By the cash tills a man was giving away boxes of Flora for free, because they were going out of date. 24 big tubs per box. Now I hate Flora. I read something once about margarine being given to turkeys and it killing them, which has always put me off. But I was not about to walk away from a once in a lifetime opportunity like this. We now have a lot of Flora that we’re not quite sure what to do with. Anyone want some Flora, please let me know. But before 07/07/19.

Next I went to The Range, for party bag stuff. The Range is another favourite, so much stuff! So cheap! So handy for blow-up hot tubs and flamingo covered plastic jugs. Best of all they sell child-sized helium balloons. I was going to get Raff a 4 and a 5 for 4.5, but it turns out they don’t do decimal point shaped helium balloons and I didn’t want anyone to think he was 45. I stuck to just a 4 instead.

My next stop was Morrisons. Morrisons, yes, I also love. Although I always feel that all the packets and fruit and veg are smaller there than anywhere else? Do you know what else is also heart-breaking? Going to another shop and finding things substantially cheaper than the stuff you just bought in Cash and Carry.

At the checkout there was a little girl nearby, happily singing her heart out while she waited patiently for her mum. The nice checkout lady told me she was one of ten kids, who were all really nice and well behaved. Maybe this is the answer to nice children?

On the way out I found a copy of Jilly Cooper’s Rivals in the book donation bit, which another nice lady on the checkout told me she had read after giving birth. ‘The sister on the ward told me it wasn’t suitable, just after giving birth…and she was right!’ The staff in Morrisons really are very nice and chatty. I feel I picked up two good parenting tips on my visit.

Fast forward to yesterday morning. I had three hours to get the party ready by myself. Edie was in nursery, Raff was at home with me and I thought we might do some nice bonding. Now this last month has been one of the busiest of my life. There has been a massive, masochistic pile-up of jobs. Hospital appointments, vets, garage visits, children’s parties, school events, reports to write…life has saved them all up and served them up to us on a big fat platter of Ha! Ha! Ha! Every stupid waking minute has been rammed full with stuff. Both Andrew and myself are shattered. Every morning we struggle to get up. I have been feeling more and more stressed. I dread looking at the calendar. It is fucking horrendous. AND THE DISHWASHER IS BROKEN.

I hadn’t slept well the night before the party, so I was particularly tired. But I didn’t really have time to be tired because I had a party to make! I began tidying the garden, making the food, filling the party bags, blowing up balloons, putting out the chairs, cushions and blankets, picking up the dog shit, etc. Have you ever noticed how the more manic you get and the faster you go, so does the clock? That.

By midmorning I was wound very tight indeed. Then I thought it might be nice to give Raff his massive helium balloon. So I did. And he let go. And we both watched in horror as it kept going up and up and up. And I thought of all the horrible things it might do to wildlife. And that Raff no longer had a special balloon and that I shouldn’t have given it to him and that parenthood was just me making one stupid shitty decision after another and then I burst into tears. And so did Raff.

And then I burst into tears again. Although I didn’t really have the time because I still hadn’t cut the watermelon up and put the table cloths out. And argh! I hadn’t precooked the sausages for the BBQ and me crying was going to ruin Raff’s birthday for him, and Raff never looked after anything that we gave him and oh god, the wildlife! Aaaarrrrgggghhh.

I did the rest of the jobs as if I was on speed, flooded with adrenaline that I didn’t know how to turn off. It was only a kids party for fucks sake! No one was going to die if the party bags weren’t finished or the ciabattas weren’t cut up, though at the time I completely forgot to remind myself of that.

Thankfully Andrew returned home and did a lot of jobs very quickly. Slowly party guests started to arrive. And the early arrivals helped finish the jobs we hadn’t yet done. And then everyone else arrived and the sun came out and everyone was lovely and kind and fun. The kids ran about the garden, jumped on the bouncy castle like loons then all got into our outside bath. They ripped open the presents and cards, which were so sweet, so lovingly handmade that I very nearly cried again after reading them later that night.

Everyone left and we fed our own kids a glorious dinner of popcorn, crisps and ketchup. Raff fell asleep in my arms which was lovely. Then woke up forty minutes later, all bleary eyed and bed haired, like some sort of twenty year old who’d woken up from a very heavy night. He hazily made his way to the doorway and pissed out of it, all over the patio.

Once the kids were in bed I got into the outside bath with a lot of rose, a chocolate brownie and an Elizabeth Jane Howard, and stayed there for a very long time.

It will all be ok, it will all be ok. June will be over soon, and then tomorrow it will be January again. And no one else is allowed to have a birthday till then.


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