Monday, 14 December 2009

A slightly random birthday tea

I have never been into throwing huge birthday parties for the Littleboys. Frankly they are a lot of work, and I genuinely don't believe the boys are old enough to really appreciate them - they don't notice the difference between having five friends around to play, and fifteen. I know that as they get older - probably very soon - they will demand big parties, with everyone from their class invited, lots of games, entertainers and goody bags, and when they want them, I will happily comply. But there's plenty of time for that, so up until now my usual strategy has been to invite a few friends (and family, when we were at home) around for a Birthday Tea. I realise that this is increasingly unusual, but my view on it is a bit like my view on introducing kids to video games; don't let them do it until they really, really want to.....

So I did the same for Littleboy2's third birthday last week. I asked round five of our new friends, with 10 children between them, half boys and half girls. I think I must have mentioned the words 'birthday tea' in an email to one of them, as she came round very bemused not knowing what to expect. "I wondered what you meant by that," she said. "I mean, children don't drink tea, do they?" I tried to explain that in England 'teatime' is a time of day, and can also be used to mean a meal; it is not just simply drinking cups of English Breakfast. I still don't think she really understood.....

In the past I've tried to organise pass the parcel and so forth, but this time my mind was more on other things, such as the Cake, so I simply let them loose to play among themselves with every available toy. It was, I have to say, fair old mayhem. Littleboy 1 led a gang of small boys on the rampage around the house; climbing the bunk beds proved a popular activity. The smaller children spread Lego liberally around the living room. The cake was produced, and Happy Birthday sung. Littleboy 2 blew out his candles. The children stuffed their faces with brownies, pizza and the infamous cake - which turned out fine, if a little mysteriously chewy.

At the tail end of the party, I brewed a pot of tea for my remaining friends and The Doctor, who had returned home early and, thank God, was doing a sterling job of clearing up the mess. The Americans took their tea black and looked horrified at the idea of milk; yet another cultural difference I was unaware of.

Reading Mom/Mum's post about goody bags, I realise now that I probably should have provided one, but no-one asked for one or complained that there weren't any.

So I guess it was a slightly random party and maybe I score bad marks as a party hostess. On the other hand everyone has emailed me to say that their children had great fun. As for the Littleboys, they announced that it was the best party ever.

Sometimes, I reckon, you can get away with being a bit random. And if anyone did think it was weird, at least I have the excuse that I come from a different country (they are not to know that parties in the UK are quite similar to here....).

13 comments:

Liz Jarvis said...

I've never really understood why it's impossible to get a decent cup of tea in the States - not even at the best hotels, just those awful Lipton tea bags. Your tea party sounds absolutely perfect and I totally agree about not having big parties for little ones - when they're in reception/kindergarten they have to invite pretty much the whole class anyway...
Liz (www.kidstart.co.uk/livingwithkids)

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

The Bosnians are nearly sick at the thought of putting milk into tea. One poor woman then decided that she should try out the British way and dunked a load of milk into her mint tea which was disgusting.

I LOVE that sort of party. That is what we do and will continue to do for as long as I can get away with it. Do something different once and you are lost!

Sounds like they had a lovely time. I bet the Americans all enjoyed it too, feeling that they were going for a proper English tea time, they probably expected to see a nanny appearing at any moment. x

Mud in the City said...

For small children I think half the fuss about parties (goody bags, entertainers etc) are for the parents rather than the children. Mountineering bunk beds are much more fun! And doing your best to enhance the English Eccentric idea is obviously a bonus. (well done on the cake!)

Expat mum said...

Worst cup of tea I have had here was in a hotel in New York where the waiter (after about half an hour) bought a tall glass of tepid milky tea - with two tea bags in it. Disgusting!
And by the way, you can get away with a lot of "weird" stuff by pretending it's what we English do.

Home Office Mum said...

you've probably started a trend now amongst the american mommies who want to be quirky and british the next time they hold a party. Who knows, maybe you single handedly will bring down the blight that is party bags!

Nota Bene said...

Think you've managed to maintain the English reputation for eccentricty...well done!

Iota said...

Yes, play that "we do it this way in England" card for all it's worth!

nappy valley girl said...

Liz, it's strange indeed because you can actually buy most kinds of tea here (including Twinings Earl Grey, which is my favourite, and PG Tips). But you're right, in hotels it is generally just Lipton.

Brit in Bosnia - milk in mint tea? That must have been vile....and yes, once you start doing big parties you can never go back.

Mud - yup, sometimes it's definitely the parents who are more excited over the party arrangements, and there's definitely an element of competitive party-giving sometimes....

Expat Mum - I had an 'Earl Grey latte' from Starbucks once. It was absolutely horrible....

Home office mum - yes, 'tea parties' will suddenly become the latest thing!

NB - well, might as well live up to the stereotype...

Iota - I certainly intend to. Until I get found out, that is....

Muddling Along Mummy said...

I love the fact that Americans don't understand English English ... and that you've found a strategy to avoid party bags

Home Office Mum said...

Completely unrelated to your post but guess what?? There is subtle talk and suggestion that possibly my husband could get a transfer to the US. Choices would be Boston, New York or SF. He asked how I felt about it. Having coveted your life, now that the option is possibly there, I'm undecided about it. Can I face starting over again or will it be the chance that I've been waiting for?? I do know that if it comes off, I will be picking your brain. A lot.

nappy valley girl said...

Muddling Along - seems like everyone hates party bags? Maybe there should be an international mummy amnesty on them....

Home Office Mum - how exciting! Well of course I would say do it....seriously, if you want to ask me anything email me!

Metropolitan Mum said...

I love being a foreigner. You just get away with an amazing amount of bullshit.

Mom/Mum said...

Dontcha just love being able to play the English card - gets you out of a lot of sticky social awkwardness.
The birthday tea sounds lovely. Perfectn fact. And a lot less stressful than grappling with goody bags. I applaud you, and thanks for the link! Mwah! x