Pre-Birthday Party Panic

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

9th September, 2018



As I write this, I'm sitting at the table in a log cabin in Sherwood Forest, Centre Parcs, and my vista and mood could not be more different than on the day I am about to write about.


Now, there is one thing no mother wants to do on the morning of her daughter's third birthday: dash to Lidl, with said daughter (and small son) in tow. But that is exactly what I found myself doing the morning of Gracie's birthday. Since it was next to the vet's and I had to do a trip there to pick up Luna's vaccination card, I naiively thought I could 'pop in.' I'm a slow learner.


The first obstacle I encountered, since this was the first time I'd ventured into a supermarket for any real food with both Tinies, was that I had no pound coin for the trolley. I counted up about 84p in my purse, not even enough for me to swap with someone's pound coin at the trolley queue. Okay. Well, I only needed a few pizzas and some party food anyway. You see, what had happened was that, being neither a children's party person nor an Organiser, I'd arranged for an easy day in Styal for Gracie's birthday, with cake. But the clouds came and the rain threatened and I had to cry off and plan (horror of horrors) a last-minute party in the house. Lidl seemed the only answer. 


It started off okay. Grace got one of those baskets on wheels with a long handle and it looked like it might even be fun. Wrong. I had to carry Isaac on my hip, as I didn't have my carrier and of course couldn't put him in the trolley. So I wanted to do this speedily and I ushered Grace over to the frozen pizzas. But if you've ever tried to hurry a toddler with a trolley or a toddler with anything, then you'll have an image of what actually happened. Anyway. We got our pizzas, some potato croquettes, some juice (not the awful, garishly-coloured stuff G was begging for) and then I tried to speed down the toy aisle to grab some things for party bag (why, oh why?,) as mine were looking decidedly skimpy and pathetic, with just a Freddo and two sweet chewies inside. Aha. I spotted some very reasonably priced Ladybird Classics. Well, that could be unconventional. A party bag and a book. Why not? So far so good. 


Wrong. Still a slow learner.


Fastforward to a few minutes later, where I bump into someone I haven't seen for a while. She stops to chat. Grace starts to fill her trolley with pots of porridge ('but Mummy I like yoghurt', she whines). Then she lies across the aisle on her back in protest when I tell her to put the brioche buns back. Why did I fight that battle? I quite like them anyway. 


Get to the till. Bit of a queue. Grace is getting worse. Isaac is on the move. I try to placate Grace with a couple of books which I bought, at which she says that her friends are going to snatch them off her at her party. This feels like a downward spiral. And no-one likes a downward spiral in Lidl. The lady at the front is taking her time, having a chat with the (very young) lady at the till. She doesn't pick up on the silent signals I'm trying to send her, like 'can't you see I'm desperate here and losing control?', as my children try to go in opposite directions and I turn around and ... every parent's worst nightmare... I can't see Grace. Phew. She's just hiding behind that swinging entrance gate-thing. Still. A telling-off ensues. The young lady at the till is giving off vibes that if she had children, they wouldn't behave like that. The kind of thoughts I used to have in my twenties, too. 


We get to the carpark and it's raining. I navigate both children into the car, leaving my basket of pizzas and books under shelter. Gracie is whining for a book for her journey home, all ten minutes of it. I get them both in, grab the basket, and hand Gracie a book, at which she whines that she wants a different one. I'm flustered and stressed and tell Grace off for the third time on her birthday morning and snatch the book off her, hurling it onto the front passenger seat. At which the heavens open and it tips it down with rain. 


Luckily, Grace enjoyed the party and it was something of a success, despite the absence of planning - or perhaps because of it? Though afterwards, in spite of all the lovely presents, Grace was only interested in where her skimpy party bag had got to. She had only eaten one of the things from it and was thereby due a Freddo. They were the one thing I had prepared the day before. I needn't have bothered with the rest of it, after all.  Gracie's latest phrase: 'But I don't want to stay in a cabinet' (on being told we would be staying in a cabin in the woods). 


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