Before kids came along, parties were crazy, spur of the moment events where the only etiquette was to bring a bottle - and try not to throw up on the host's carpet.
Become a parent, and all of a sudden your child's future social life and friendships depend on you not offending a bunch of mums and dads (many of whom you don't even know) when birthdays roll around.
Brodie's had a party almost every year. We only missed one because we'd moved to a new area and he hadn't made enough friends to merit one.
But through our own celebrations, and time spent taking him to others, I've started to learn the etiquette of children's parties.
And not to be surprised by the rudeness of some parents, who seem oblivious to it all.
In my opinion, if you stick to three golden rules, you can't go far wrong
Answer the invitation
Sounds simple doesn't it?
But you'd be amazed how many Mums and Dads can't even be bothered to bash out an email or text - or even grab you in the playground and tell you a simple yes or no.
Then they show up, brazen as you like, when you'd assumed they weren't coming and you don't have enough party bags. Or else you cater for extra, since they didn't refuse, and they don't turn up.
Annoys the hell out of me, when I'm in party-planning overdrive, that I have to go on a "search and ask you" mission with certain mums and dads.
As a rule, invitations should go out a month before the party.
And parents should RSVP no later than 10 days before the event.
Both sides must appreciate how much time and effort it takes to organise children - and give each other the courtesy of knowing what's happening in plenty of time.
If the name's not down, don't bring them in
Kids parties are all about the head count. It determines the number of party bags, the number of mouths to feed....Even some kids entertainers will put a limit on the size of audience they'll play
to. So siblings shouldn't be taken to a party, unless their names are on the invite.
You might think one more won't make much difference. But what if the other 10 families coming assume the same?
Babysitting can be an issue. But if you've been given enough notice, do what you can to get someone to watch your other children - or ask the host if you can drop the invited child off and pick them up later.
If neither is possible, talk to the hosts about bringing along extra little ones.
But for God's sake don't just turn up with your entire brood if they haven't been asked; it's bloody rude and can cost a lot in money and hassle.
More importantly, if you make a habit of doing this, you'll get a reputation and your child will be excluded from parties in future.
Give a little thanks
If your child is a guest, make sure they thank the birthday boy/girl at the end, for having them to their celebration.
If you're the host, set aside the gifts and let your child open them after the party - when you can write down who sent what.
Then make sure a thank you note is given out within a month of the party.
Again this sounds ridiculously obvious, but I've known parents who have blacklisted certain kids (seriously, I'm not joking) for not showing the basic courtesies.
Which is terrible, because it's the parents who are really to blame for a lack of manners.
Now I know what some people are going to think: relax, it's a celebration, chill out and just enjoy yourself, what's all the fuss about?
But believe me, until you've organised one of these things, you have no idea how much trouble a child's party can be.
You find yourself going to more effort than you ever did for yourself. And spending much more - even though there's no alcohol involved!
Parties can also be highly-charged, emotional issues for the offspring.
Not just the excitement of attending them. But the disappointment if they're excluded from one all their friends are going to.
Which is why my six-year-old son has been told that next year, he can choose a friend or two to take out for pizza and the cinema. I just can't take the politics and the hassle any longer.
Unfortunately we're committed to a few more parties for our three-year-old, who I feel deserves the same treats as his big brother.
So for at least a couple more years I'll be tiptoeing around the social minefield that is the children's party.
Where you WILL have a good time.
Donna is a Geordie lass, married to a Lancashire lad, and mum to two lively boys who were born in Jersey - now all living in Scotland. Confused? Don't worry. So is she most of the time!
Blogs at: Mummy Central
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