Don’t They Play Pass The Parcel Anymore?



It was my grandson’s 7th birthday this week., and I was invited to join him, his mummy and Daddy and his little Brother (well, I say invited, It was more like a compulsory attendance order!)

We spent a lovely day at a local  venue with train rides,  play park, and a show with a travelling clown and his glamorous assistant……since when did clowns have glamorous assistants?? Then we went back to their house for a birthday tea complete with a masterpiece of a cake baked by  Mummy. His beloved Uncle A and Auntie L popped in for tea, but unfortunately Master Chef was working and not able to be there….. a little glitch, but  soon forgotten when 7 realised he had sent a present for him with Grandma!!

But of course, this was not his “proper” party…. No, this is on Saturday at a local Country Park, where he and 14 of his school friends (and me!) will be having a “Really Wild Party” including feeding birds of prey, Bushcraft Activities ( I don’t know what that is either!), a barefoot walk through a swamp (NO…. I shall not be partaking of this!)


Whatever happened to having parties at home?  These days they always seem to be held at local halls, sports complexes, swimming pools, play cafes,bowling alleys, and 7 even went to one at a reptile house! And unless food is provided in the package you have to make it all, transport it to the venue and remember to take candles and a knife for the cake

But it got me thinking about the parties we had for our children when they were little…. 3 children x parties for each until they were at least 11 =33 + a few odd ones in the teenage years

K and Master Chef were born in the summer so we were usually able to have parties in the garden. A was born in February, so that meant a houseful of screaming, excited, hyperactive children…………yes, the parties were always held at home, and I have to say I really enjoyed them!

First birthday parties weren’t really for the child though were they?

No,it was more of a gathering of sleep deprived, stressed out  mothers who were grateful for a good excuse to break open the wine in the afternoon

Then, of course, there was the cake……and the party bags. The competition was fierce to produce the biggest, most extravagant party bag contents.  There was no taking home a bag containing just a balloon, piece of cake and a popper! Oh no… we had pencils, notebooks, bracelets for girls, toy cars for boys. They cost more than the whole party itself!

And the cakes!  I’ve made trains, Postman Pat vans, cottages with flowers trailing round the doors. (They used to be called Rose Cottage til I worked in a hospital where they called the mortuary Rose Cottage!)  Cheeseburgers, Football pitches, crashing cars, fairy castles and pirate ships, space ships… to name but a  few


And they all had their favourite, K’s  was a creation called Mushroom Manor which she insisted on having again for her 18th!  A loved his guitar, and had another for his 21st and Master Chef a Caterpillar…..infact he still has a Caterpillar cake for his  birthday every year now, but these days it comes courtesy of the local supermarket!

We’ve had themed parties, pirates, princesses, football, disco. And fancy dress parties. When K was 10 we suggested  having a swimming party at the newly opened swimming pool in town, but this was firmly declined as I was 8 months pregnant and far too embarrassing to be seen in public, so we had a “shorts and shades” one. I still dig out the photos when we want a laugh!

And we played traditional party games. Musical Statues, Musical Chairs, Hide and Seek, and , of course, Pass the Parcel. Though there were a few tears if the party person didn’t win!!

And then, there have been the parties they been invited to. One memorable one was when a friend of K was 3. Mummy was a teacher, and to say she was a pushy mum was a small understatement. Her daughter was a sweet little girl  but was put under extreme pressure to be better than any of her peers, and was nicknamed, (rather unkindly, I now realise) “Well Done Jo”, as whatever she did her mummy would boom across the room “Oh, well done Jo”

WDJ  slept all night from the day she was born, was potty  trained by 6 weeks old ,walked at 6 months, recognised the alphabet at 7 months and  read War and Peace  at 8 months…..Yeah, ok, I exaggerate a little……but not much.

My friend and I  dreaded it when her mum approached us at dance class to regale us with WDJ’s latest achieved milestone and inquire whether our girls could dress themselves, tie their own shoelaces, recite their 8 times table backwards…… in the end we  did what all good mothers did…..lied!

Anyway, back to the party. We arrived a little early, K was very excited, and were told in no uncertain terms that we were too early and we’d have to wait, we were ushered into the living room and left there until the others arrived.  Presents were given, but WDJ wasn’t allowed to open them which caused tears, and not just from her. Then they were all ushered into the garden to play “Hunt the Thimble”…..bearing in mind they were 3, and didn’t even know what a thimble was. It was not a success!  By this time the birthday girl had disappeared, and……shock horror……was discovered in the kitchen taking a sneaky bite out of her birthday cake!! She was instantly sent to her bedroom and the party continued without her! We never went to another one of her parties

Oh, and look … I’ve just found evidence that A demonstrated similar behaviour at one of his parties. I don’t remember banning him to his room


Our beloved JJ and Auntie S never missed a party…. and no party was complete without one of my trifles.

We lost Master Chef at his 4th party, he was nowhere to be found. I eventually found shut away in his bedroom playing with Lego because “everyone was too noisy”  for him!

But I loved all the planning and arranging. Working out what to have to eat, what cake to make, what the theme might be etc

There was often a bit of a panic the night before when the cake wouldn’t go right, and I have been known to start all over a gain and then be up until 2 am finishing it.

The day of the party would arrive, sandwiches were made, last-minute shopping completed, party bags filled, and balloons blown up. Then all I had to do was to keep the party person calm and occupied until it was party time. For 2 or 3 hours the house became a hive of noise and happiness….. with the occasional tear and tantrum from an over excited birthday child.

Presents were opened, games played, I loved to hear the  joyful laughter of the children as they engrossed themselves in the party games, and the look of wonder on the birthday person’s face when the cake was revealed for the first time, then the sound of 12+ little voices singing “Happy Birthday” at the tops of their voices.

Then it was over, parents came to collect their little cherubs, party bags were dished out, balloons given, with tears as they didn’t get the colour they wanted or it flew away as they left the house.

The house looked like a bomb had been dropped, with cake and bits of sandwiches all over the place. But it never took too long to clear up, and usually the children were quiet and engrossed in examining the presents in great depth.

Finally children were bathed and tucked up in bed and it was time for Mummy to relax…..with a large glass of wine and left over slice of birthday cake

Ah yes…. such lovely memories. I can almost hear the laughter.

Perhaps I’ll just go and dig out the photographs

And…… maybe I’ll suggest to 7 that we have a game of Pass the Parcel when we get back from the swamp walk……..