15 things I learnt at a five-year-old's birthday party - Gaby Soutar

I had an extremely important role at my five-year-old nephew’s recent birthday party.

As an official squash pourer, I took my responsibilities very seriously. First of all, you must always anticipate sudden drouths, by gauging how sweaty and red small children look. If their hair is plastered to their face, they will soon need a drink.

Once they’ve sloshed that down their neck, you are required to mix a second batch of juice up quickly, because kids gulp liquid in the same way that seals eat fish.

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Rule two – the ratio of diluting juice to water must be correct. Too much of the syrupy blackcurrant or orange base, and the kids are going to go extra loco.

children's birthday. happy kids with cake and balloons Pic: Evgeny Atamanenkochildren's birthday. happy kids with cake and balloons Pic: Evgeny Atamanenko
children's birthday. happy kids with cake and balloons Pic: Evgeny Atamanenko

Too little, they won’t bother finishing it and will become dehydrated and tetchy.

I took my job very seriously, as it allowed me to move freely amongst this cohort. The same when it came to handing out sausage rolls, guarding the lockless toilet door against marauders and assembling the party bags.

This benign-looking auntie – invisible in her ordinariness – was able to observe their behaviour, in the style of Jane Goodall among the wild chimpanzees. We started with a group in their finest party wear and ended with something akin to Lord of the Flies.

This is what I learnt. All are excellent rules that can be applied to life in general.

1. Apart from crisps, skip the savouries

The idea they must be eaten first is a daft rule devised by grown-ups, who know nothing. If all the food has been spread out on the table, and the officials – in this case, adults – aren’t watching, dig into the cake and chocolates. Have seconds, thirds, fourths. If your elders offer you a sandwich, take it, as a distraction, but don’t eat it. Leave it on your paper plate, especially if it’s of the tuna mayonnaise variety. If there are the obligatory rice crispy cakes, you’ll lose interest after the first bite, so crush them up, and leave the detritus all over – and under – the table.

2. Blame the younger ones

They’re the perfect scapegoats. If something goes missing – in this case, a grown-up’s car keys – this is an ideal opportunity for older children to lay the blame on the babies and toddlers. Nobody gets angry at them, because they’re too small to know better and they can’t talk to defend themselves. Just say you thought you saw them playing with the keys. Win-win. If the adult finds the mislaid item in their pocket later, well, you were mistaken.

3. Shoes and socks are cramping your style

Remove them as soon as possible, preferably in the play centre’s ball pool. It’ll soon be overflowing with tiny Crocs.

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4. If you aren’t getting 100 per cent attention, disappear ...

… then attempt to exit the premises through a side door that someone has accidentally left open. They’ll be sure to notice you then. The same goes for swearing. Drop the F bomb and all eyes will suddenly be on you.

5. If someone does something naughty, tell on them

We’re not in prison. Ratting on others is completely acceptable. Drop them right in it. Hang around to watch and ensure that justice has been served.

6. Just cry

Weep and let the tears and snotters squirt out. Latch onto your significant other and leave a big wet puddle of drool on their shoulder. Your reason – that you were playing hide and seek, and someone found you – doesn’t have to make any sense. Maybe you’re hangry because you only ate sweets for lunch?

7. If there’s a whistle in your party bag, ignore all the other contents (apart from the Haribo)

Blow it, and keep doing so constantly and tunelessly in the car, all the way home. Grown-ups LOVE it so.

8. Don’t go to the loo until you are ready to explode

Hop from leg to leg, cross them, grit your teeth, tap your toes, any discomfort is worth it to avoid that boring chore. Time on the toilet = time out from fun. Same goes for washing your hands. Who bothers with that? Grown-ups, that’s who.

9. Don’t look at the birthday cards

Check for vouchers or badges, then put them straight in the bin. People have resentfully paid £3.50 for them. Why? Only the presents are of any interest. You can’t read anyway.

10. The first three gifts to be opened are your favourites

Any further pressies are to be regarded with suspicion. Bat them away like a young prince.

11. Beg to leave at the start of any party, refuse to leave at the end

12. Get your loved ones to raise their game, with a brutal put-down

For example, if a good-looking and glamorous adult arrives at drop-off time, say “why can’t you look more like her, mummy?” Note – this gem is not credited to my nephew, but to another child at the party.

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13. When it’s time for the birthday cake ceremony, don’t sing along

Keep your mouth shut, and let the adults make fools of themselves, with their performative chanting. Once that torture is over, DO try to blow out the candles, even if it’s not your special day. This will help speed the process along. It also ensures an even and diverse spread of germs.

14. The balloons are there to be sat on and popped

15. If your old auntie is making the squash, chug-chug-chug

Only she can get the ratios right.

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