As you might imagine we have had our fair share of children's birthday parties. How things have changed over recent years; when I was a kid it was tradition for Dads to get off to the pub during such occasions and only return when the vacuum had been switched off and the last balloon had been burst. In this present climate all fathers are honour-bound to, not only be present at the celebration, but to take an active part in the entertainment.
I remember, on the occasion of our youngest daughter's fifth birthday, having to set up a make-shift disco unit in an old village hall. This community building had seen its fair share of nonsense during its 65 years of existence but I added to the collective sense of Dad embarrassment on this occasion.
The music had been selected and the two bulb light-set that I had bought for the party, was making zero impact on the brightly lit, early evening, magnolia walls. Balloons had been blown up and sandwiches had been covered in cling film to keep them 'fresh'. Our girls were already buzzing with excitement due to too much fizzy pop and the promise of party games.
Eventually some parents arrived to drop off their children each one having that same knowing look; a mixture of pity for us who were left behind and joy that it was not they who had to hold together such a major event. I offered one or two of the Dads a drink in the hope of bribing them to stay but they were all too wise to fall for such a ploy.
We started the party games with a cheer from all the children who were now reaching fever pitch; the noise level getting beyond bearable. Pass the parcel went off without a hitch and I managed to arrange it so that every child had a turn at ripping off the paper; I am not sure if this amounts to fraud but it makes for less tears. My own sadness with the game was that the kids cared little for the time and energy it took to wrap the parcel in the first place, such a lack of gratitude.
The game that caused the most fuss was the one where children were paired up in a three legged race style with the addition of a balloon attached to a child’s legs by means of a string. The aim of the game was to pop everybody else’s whilst retaining your own. I foolish agreed to partner daughter number three and as soon as the music started we were off on our popping mission.
The problem that I have is that I get far too competitive for my own good; or the good of anyone else for that matter. With a look of manic delight on my face, I lifted my six year old by the arms and dashed around the floor bursting innocent children’s balloons. With neither favouritism nor mercy I aimed for every piece of inflated coloured latex I could see whilst flinging my daughter in every direction. My daughter laughed in delight, my wife sighed in embarrassment, the other kids cried in defeat.
I am pleased to report that we were the winners but our victory was ruined by the tears of the other party goers and the look of disappointment on my wife's face. I tried to justify my actions by saying that I was teaching the children a valuable lesson about losing but my bride would have none of it; she tried to tell me that the party was for smaller kids not bigger ones.
I was made to watch the incident back on video in order that I might understand how strange I looked as my need to win overtook my need to be nice. My wife had shown the video to some of her female friends and they had concurred with her assessment of my immaturity. In defence I showed it to a number of mates to see what they thought of the whole episode. To a man they all laughed and cheered my efforts recognising that I had indeed taught the children a valuable lesson; don’t let Dad’s join in at parties.