Stand up the fool who invented party bags. What on earth did you think you were doing? I know I'm old and boring - my children tell me often enough - but can someone please tell me what was wrong with the good old days, when you went home from a party clutching just a balloon and a slice of cake – homemade with water icing?
You now need two hands to carry the loot spilling out of the gaily decorated Hello Kitty party bag.
Maybe I'm just jealous or mean, quite possibly both, but why do we do it?
It's not enough to fill our mini party animals with enough E numbers and additives to possibly preserve them indefinitely – and that's just the sweets flying out of the pass the parcel - but no, we have to send them home with more.
The actual bags have now turned into an art form. Take for example the Fairy Princesses Carriage party boxes that I found for my daughter's eighth birthday. (I do have principles I'm just weak when confronted by my children.) Anyway I painstakingly pressed out the cardboard boxes folded them along the pre-marked lines and hey presto I had little pink sparkly carriages to fill with sweets for the children to take home – they sure caused some angst for the mother of the next child to have a party. She'd only bought the plastic bag variety, she anxiously confided to me at pick up time.
An elderly, childless, friend of mine once came to help out at one of my children's parties. She was terribly impressed when she saw all the children crowding round to say thank you at the end.
I happily disillusioned her, before she could start praising the youth of today, by telling her that the real reason for the orderly queue was because they were waiting for their party bags. And some of them don't even say thank you they just skip to the 'Can I have a party bag please?' 'Party bags, don't they just take a balloon?' She said obviously confused.
Wise up, Granny, this is the 21st century.
But even the seemingly innocuous balloon can present problems, particularly the helium ones. There's always a child who is terrified when they burst; though arguably not as much as the parents of the child who lets go of the string.
Howling uncontrollably they watch the balloon gently rise above their head. Daddy! Quick! Catch it! Er no chance daddy unless you can fly!
Once you have bitten the Haribo bullet and gone the route of providing takeaway tooth-rot you have the tricky task of working out the numbers because 10 party goers does not equate to 10 party bags. You need quite a few extra. You have to account for some little blighters that gate crash. 'Little Luke was so disappointed he didn't have a party to go to I thought you wouldn't mind if he came too.' Er yes I damn well do, says your brain as your mouth replies, 'Of course, no problem, that's absolutely fine.'
So if you're not prepared you'll find yourself in a game of complex fractions as you try and divide the sweets to make up an extra bag. And then there's the scenario when you see that some little cherub has managed to get hold of two bags. In a split second you have to decide whether to wrestle them to the ground to remove it or smile through gritted teeth.
You do, however, eventually get to that stage of parenthood when party bags gradually die a death. But before you reach that welcome milestone the bar is well and truly raised, when the pearly pink nail varnish and glittering headwear are simply no longer enough.
And there are always parents who rise beyond the challenge. Take, for example, my middle child. He went to a paint ball party and came back happily clutching his very own paint ball gun. I cautiously questioned him. 'Everyone got one to take home' came the reply. 'But it was instead of a party bag.' Kerching! I think we made a profit on that one.
Do you like or loathe party bags?
Do you have any tips for cheap ways to fill them?
More on Parentdish:
Best buys: Preparing for a child's birthday party
Why I won't be inviting the whole class to my child's birthday party
Party politics: Please can you reply to my child's invitation