My five-year-old son is in his first year of primary school, and thus still at the age where parents are expected to chaperone their children at parties. Oh we get the odd one or two where confident hosts take phone numbers and gaily wave us off at the door (and believe you me, I'm like a whippet from a trap on those occasions) but for the most part we parents are in it for the duration.
Sitting on hard plastic chairs smeared with unidentifiable substances, I seethe with resentment at having to spend two precious hours listening to the Funky Monkey discothèque and watching other people's kids overdose on E numbers.
In the last few months I've been to dozens of kids' parties and each one has left me cold. Take the last one, for example, where a professional DJ played such hits as Rihanna's You Da One (the spelling alone should be enough to ban it from children still getting to grips with basic phonics) while five-year-old girls gyrated in crop-tops. Whatever happened to pass-the-parcel?
The next birthday celebration we went to was even worse: The Kev and Kelly Komedy Duo limped through a party routine based solely around breaking wind, giving out so many sweets even the kids groaned at the thought of more.
When Kev announced the next routine would involve the parents too, I shot him a look of complete loathing, flatly refusing to take part in the inane fart-related dance to which he was subjecting 20 confused Reception children.
When my children were babies life was a whirlwind of infant socialising, with a first or second birthday party almost every weekend. Back then apart from a token gift and a few balloons, parties were mainly about drinking tea and eating cake. But now we've hit school age it seems that every birthday party is just another round of tat. What on earth happens between the ages of four and five to make children's parties so chavvy?
My friend Kate, mother to a three-year-old girl, thinks it happens even earlier than that. "I took Bethany to her friend's third birthday and was horrified by what they'd laid on for her. The music pumping out from a stereo was what I'd expect in a night club, and in fact some of the mums would have looked quite at home in one. All these two and three-year-olds were just tottering about the village hall, looking quite bemused. I'm sure they'd have preferred a rousing chorus of Wind The Bobbin Up."
But mum Rachel disagrees. "I really like organising parties for my daughters and often book proper DJs for them. I used to love discos when I was young and I enjoy seeing the girls bopping away to some decent music. They might only be little but why should they have to listen to nursery rhymes when there's much better stuff out there?"
The last birthday party we went to was at another village hall, and I braced myself for the usual round of mums in mini-skirts and tattooed dads lining the walls. I was pleasantly surprised to find a hall full of hired tricycles, and a hands-on PE-teacher uncle organising riotous games. It was simple, hugely fun and the kids had a ball.
When my son's birthday came around I kept it low-key too.
A dozen or so friends over to our house (suitably decorated for a 'knights and princesses' party), pin the tail on the dragon and a jolly old round of musical bumps, followed by a lunch of ham sandwiches and cherry tomatoes.
Do kids that age really need more?
Justine Seepers, expat blogger for The Moscow Times tells me if that I think kids' parties are chavvy in the UK, I don't know the half of it. Apparently in Russia it is quite the norm to hold themed all-day events involving fully-catered sit-down meals for the children and their parents, professional fireworks displays and crocodile-tamers. "Animals are very popular for parties here," Justine says. "One of the mums at my own son's party – a rather retro 1970s British affair – told me she'd just been to a party where the main attraction was a Siberian Tiger."
Suddenly the Rihanna playlist and a table full of cheesy Wotsits don't seem so bad.
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