Now We Are Forty…

It was my fortieth birthday a couple of weeks ago. FORTY, for fuck’s sake! I am now a 40 year old woman! How on earth did that happen?

Oddly, I wasn’t in the least bit concerned in the run up to the day. No denial, no keeping it quiet, no plans to pretend, like the mum in Judd Apatow’s hilarious movie ‘This Is 40’, that I will remain 39 forever, no telling people not to make a fuss. That’s not my style: I like MAXIMUM fuss to be made of me on my birthday, and always make a fuss of people I love on theirs.  Any excuse for champagne, frankly. No, I embraced it utterly, and planned a big grown-up garden party.

As the Significant Birthday approached, people kept saying things along the lines of: ‘Ooh, the big Four-Oh, how are you feeling about it?!’ and I was then able to spout my ‘Theory of Being a Forty-Year-Old Woman in 2013’. Which goes something like this. There has never, in human history, been a better time to be a woman. There’s still a long way to go – there’s appallingly bad shit and inequality and unfairness and misogyny and sexism still going on around the world to women and girls – but nevertheless. In particular, there has probably never been a better time to be a woman over 40. Or an Actual Grown-Up, as I now think of what used to be called Middle Age.

At the RA on the Big Day

At the RA on the Big Day

Just look around you, at the musicians and actors and models, the business leaders and entrepreneurs, the writers, journalists, politicians and sportspeople. There are an awful lot of Actual Grown-Up Women among them. Some of the coolest, sexiest people in the world are now over 40. Kylie’s 45 (KYLIE!), and Madonna was 55 last week, for goodness’ sake. Jennifer Aniston is 44; Samantha Cameron and Susanna Reid are both 42. Paula Radcliffe was born the same year as me. Karren Brady is 44, and JK Rowling is 48. Cameron Diaz is a year older than me. Yeah, really! The original supermodels are all in their mid-40s. Women aged over 40 are at the top of their game: mature, confident in their skin, look frickin’ amazing, and have an attractive sheen of experience and wisdom.

In short, when I think of myself as a 40-year-old woman, I don’t think ‘Shit! I’m over the hill! I’ve done nothing with my life! In my advanced years I must cut my hair unflatteringly short and wear crap clothes and ugly shoes and no make-up and inexorably trudge down the path to old age and incontinence and death!’ Rather, I think this: Wow. This is totally going to be the best decade ever! This is the decade when I will accomplish my dreams and achieve my potential. Now my children are no longer tiny and totally dependent on me, now I have something approaching a life of my own again, it’s going to be amazing. This is where I get to be utterly myself, where there are no barriers. apart from my own thoughts, to business success, finishing that novel, being thin, being comfortably-off, being happy, and being fit and healthy.

That’s the most personal thing, right there. The healthy bit. My thirties weren’t all they were cracked up to be. Apart from giving birth to my two darling children, I was basically stressed, broke, anxious, depressed or having panic attacks for much of my thirties (and twenties, if we’re being honest). And then my late thirties were spectacularly crap thanks to my Cancer Experience. You know how much I hate the language of cancer – the battling, struggling, fighting, surviving stuff – but as I approached my 40th birthday I actually felt euphoric about having reached this ripe old age because (and you may never hear me use this word again) I survived. I got this far. And so my party was a chance to say thank you to (almost) all the people who supported me and DH through it, and to celebrate having actually got to 40, which looked like a distinctly shaky possibility three years ago when I was diagnosed. IMG_3210

Still, I do wonder when I’m going to feel grown-up. Does that ever happen? When I was younger, my mum would say she still felt 18, and I never got what she meant, until recently when I realised that in my head I am basically still 22 and feel no more emotionally mature, stable, sophisticated or cool than Taylor Swift. I am hoping that at some point I will know my limit on white wine, stop drunk texting and tweeting, re-heel my shoes on time, learn to play golf, or tennis, own a fancypants coffee machine, have regular manicures, and never run out of bog roll or milk. That time is not now.

My birthday itself was perfect: the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (my annual art indulgence) with DH and the kiddies, and then champagne afternoon tea at my new favourite restaurant, Balthazar, with the surprise addition of my mummy, which reduced me to tears. DH bought me a stunning grey snakeskin Michael Kors handbag and, from the kiddies, a gorgeous gold ‘Pinchy’ name necklace, made for me by a stroppy little Polish man in Hatton Garden (His phone call alerting DH to the completion of the commission was a terse ‘Hello? Pinchy is Ready’. Dial tone). Then a takeaway and more champagne at home with our best friends, which accidentally got a bit drunken. Then an indulgent lunch the next day at Le Gavroche with my wonderful parents, and sis and brother-in-law, who gave me the most beautiful gold bracelet. Mama and Pops had created an amazingly nostalgic Aspinal leather photo album with photos of me from newborn to now, embossed with ‘Maja – the first 40 years’ on the front. (Mummy said she was going to put 1973-2013 and then realised that it would look like I had actually died…) IMG_3188

So I didn’t really need the party I had planned. But what a party it was. We cunningly shipped the smalls off to our dear friends’ house with an all-night babysitter so all the kiddies could have fun together and all the adults could stay at ours and have a lie-in the next morning.  We spent all day dressing the garden: hay bales covered with colourful fleeces, Chinese lanterns in sorbet shades, fairy lights, and bunting. At 8pm, guests started arriving and under the gazebo there was live music – a guy and a guitar, and his girlfriend singing Kings of Leon tracks beautifully – to accompany prosecco, and canapes made by my mummy and best friend. We even had catering – a deliciously meaty South African barbecue – and then the party really got started, with DH manning the ‘Marisco Disco’ (ie a playlist on my iPad attached to a proper sound system kindly loaned to us for the occasion).

Everyone had dressed up. The wine flowed. I danced on the patio under the fairy lights all night, with my best friends and my family (my mum and dad have got some stamina, I can tell you). I can’t remember the last time I did that. Being whirled around by gorgeous boys for hours on end was quite marvellous. I lost count of the number of times we had Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ on, with 46 people shouting ‘You know you want it, you’re a GOOD GIRL’ repeatedly. My sister (dressed as Chris Lowe from the Pet Shop Boys circa 1988, just because she knew I would love it) and brother-in-law presented my birthday cake: delicious chocolate brownies in the shape of the number 40, each with a candle. One of my oldest school friends had flown over from her home in Malaysia just for the weekend, just for me. Another lovely friend came straight from his flight from Ireland and arrived at 11.30pm to share my celebration. Almost everyone had booked a hotel room, so they could fully commit to partying. I was spoiled with gifts of every major champagne label under the sun, and some beautiful jewellery, and compliments on my last-minute dress, and many, many hugs and kisses. The old Salisbury gang was back together for the first time in years. My uni chums were there, and my mummy friends. Everyone had a ball.

The last guests left or went to bed at 4am. (The neighbours kindly asked us to take the music inside at 1am.) And when everyone else had gone, I stayed up for a bit by myself to savour it all and quietly open a couple of pressies. To soak up the last vestige of party atmosphere, and cement my memories. My jaws ached from smiling. My knees and toes were killing me from dancing in heels for seven hours. I’ll never forget it. It was perfect. IMG_3452

Being born in 1973, we’ve had a few 40th celebrations over the past year, and more special ones to come in the next couple of years among my closest friends. It does feel like a really significant birthday, a real milestone or marker in one’s life. Some people dread being 40 as it approaches, and I totally get that. It’s a natural trigger for quite a lot of self-examination and life assessment. I say: embrace it. Enjoy it. Celebrate it. Mark it, as noisily as possible with as many people as possible and as much champagne as possible. And when the hangover has abated, and life, somewhat surprisingly, gets back to normal, get on with the business of living, and loving, and start planning your 50th birthday celebration. I’m thinking Vegas…

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Birthdays, birthdays, birthdays…

DH and I committed something of a rookie error in our family planning. My birthday is in August, and so is our wedding anniversary. And then DD was born on the first of the month. I told DH not to touch me ever again in October or November, but lo and behold, DS arrived two years and three weeks after DD. Add a couple of summer-born nieces and a nephew born 12 days after DS into the mix (we know what our siblings were doing in the late autumn…) and we now have a crazy six week period where we have six family birthdays (three of which are in the same week) and an anniversary. Most of which come out of the same pay cheque. Gulp.

So the day after my radiotherapy finished at the end of July we were plunged into the balloons, candles, and cake of Party Central. That Saturday, we had a soft play party for one of DS’s nursery buddies in the morning, followed by my squidgy niece’s first birthday bash about half an hour away, and then over to our other beautiful niece’s fourth birthday (the usual rather splendid mini-festival by the Thames) at tea time. The kiddies were amazing, in great spirits all day (much of which they spent naked and splashing in paddling pools, in between eating vast quantities of sugar and bouncing), napping where they could and still singing along to James ‘Sounds Like’ Blunt in the car on the way home at 10pm. My sister made a very lovely and emotional toast to her baby girl and me, saying it was like a dream come true that the big bits of my treatment ending coincided with celebrating C’s big day. There may have been some happy tears, I couldn’t possibly comment.

The celebrating continued with our friends S&J on the Sunday, during which I took advantage of not being the designated driver and imbibed rather too much champagne and Barolo in the sunshine, resulting in the infamous Lobegate row between me and a rather more sober DH. The following day was my delicious DD’s fifth birthday – where on earth did that go? A half decade already! – and we dressed the garden with butterflies for a little tea party for her best friends. In another bit of classic Pinchy planning, after everyone had left at 6pm, we had to pack to leave for Disneyland Paris – the kiddies’ joint birthday treat – early the following morning.

Disney was everything it should be. We went to Florida on our honeymoon and I’ve always wanted to take my children. Paris is so close, and our three days at the Hotel New York, 10 minutes’ walk from the parks, were really magical. At just five and not-quite-three, they were the perfect age, in total awe of everything from Sleeping Beauty’s castle, to the Buzz Lightyear ride (DS is obsessed with Toy Story) and the It’s A Small World boat ride, which we had to go on twice (and still can’t get that slightly sinister theme music out of our head…).

We were all in one room, which worked better than I thought. We got up around 8, dug into our bag of snacks, hit the park for two hours, came back for the last breakfast setting for brunch at 11am, then went on more rides, had another snack, and then all ate out around 7pm. By the time we’d got back to the hotel and bathed after supper, we were all ready to crash. And, after queuing for an astonishing 90 minutes, we even got to meet the real ‘Rapunzel’, thus making DD’s birthday wish come true.

There were some downsides, of course. The trip was excruciatingly expensive before we even got there, and everything at Disney is crazily overpriced. The food is largely disgusting and£11 for a children’s portion of fried crap seemed to be the going rate. You would have thought a pint of cider was actually molten gold. The queues are quite long for smalls – a minimum of 20 minutes and often double that. And the service is hilariously French, to the point of the ‘cast’ of the parks appearing to be caricatures of French customer service personnel, they were so rude and generally unaccomodating and unhelpful. Perhaps it was all a giant post-modern self-referential joke. But I don’t think so. No-one said ‘have a nice day’, which was fine, obviously, but it was very much the opposite of what you might expect from one of Walt’s establishments.

 

A couple of days after our return, it was my turn for birthday pressies. I was spoiled rotten, it has to be said, including a gorgeous nude patent handbag from DH, stunning leather jacket (which Grazia would probably describe as ‘butter-soft’) from my sis, Pennyhill Park spa voucher from my mummy and Pops, a Mulberry heart key ring from S&J, and many other very thoughtful gifts. I am a very, very lucky girl. And of course, the best thing was not the undeniably lovely pressies, but the most fun night out with a really fab group of my amazing friends and family.

We met in All Bar One, all marvelling that we could not remember the last time we were in a bar as couples, then hit Jamie’s for an absolutely debauched dinner. I dimly remember eating my linguine, but after that, nada. I think there was some chat about tattoos, and I had limoncello for pudding (never a good sign). No memory of this, nor the other bar we apparently went to, where DH was asked to put his shirt back on after launching into one of his regular Freddie Mercury impressions. He did look after me, though, even giving the reluctant cabbie ‘the cancer chat’ to persuade him to take the wobbly 38 year old home. Oh the shame! Great fun, though. I was looking pretty good at the start of the evening (after a good haircut at Aveda booked as a surprise by DH as he said my hair was looking ‘a bit cancery’!!), but when I woke in the morning naked but for my silicone chicken fillet still stuck to the mini-boob, I felt rather less glam. Sadly, I do not seem to be ageing as elegantly as some of the excellent wine I’ve drunk this summer.

After a memorable barbecue a week later (which culminated in me chanelling Barbara Dickson for a scary version of I Know Him So Well. Pinchy may not be Polish for ‘nightingale’: our guests were actually trying to leave as I sang, ushering their children away from the crazy lady), we all had a bit of a break from Good Times last week. DD had a week in kids’ club, and I was back to the badlands of Cancer Central with a bump. I am back on the Tamoxifen after seeing Dr Houston, my oncology consultant. I had a very interesting kinesiology session with my amazing friend E before this, as I was clearly hugely intolerant of the drug. She did an energetic detox on me which appeared to suggest that it would now be absolutely fine for me to be back on the drug, and I would have no side effects, with the caveat that my body could not process the whole daily 20mg horse pill in one go, and I should split it, having 10mg in the morning and 10mg in the evening. I had read about many women doing this on the advice of their doctors anyway, and I have to say, so far, so good. No hot flushes, and I haven’t tried to kill anyone. Houston said if I felt murderous again, DH should call him (they are golf buddies now, don’t forget…). I said that would assume he wasn’t the subject of my hormonal rage.

Then last Thursday, it was the 12th of 17 Herceptin drips. It was raining and I was very down that day. I would quite happily never see that chemo suite again, you know. In my head I am so over this caaancer business, and everytime I have to spend a morning up at the hospital it feels very depressing. You never, ever get used to the needles, and sitting among people who are mostly much older, much more ill, and much less optimistic. I just don’t feel part of the cancer community at all, it’s not something that I feels defines me in any way, and I just want to get out of there as soon as possible every time. I cried for most of the day. My hand is still bruised from the damn canula, but luckily an evening out with E&G was in the diary, and some very good steak and Malbec sorted me out.

And finally, to the latest birthday this summer: my darling cheeky little DS was three on Monday. We had all the grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins, not to mention his fairy godfather (sorry JB, you know what I mean!) over for a lovely tea in the garden on Sunday, which again resulted in much naked shrieking (not from me, I hasten to add. Not this time, anyway). The house is now full of Fireman Sam and Toy Story stuff, including the brilliant ‘real’ Buzz Lightyear, who is strangely attractive for a bit of plastic. He’s got all the chat; I think I might be falling in love with him. Then DS started pre-school yesterday – just upstairs in his nursery, but a real change for him. He was a little star and I think he’ll settle in fine.

So all in all, a busy, busy summer thus far. And I haven’t told you about the house we bought while all this was going on…

A fabulously normal half term

The first day back after a school holiday is a funny thing. I don’t know about you but today I feel a curious mixture of relief that we are back into our routine and I can get back to the relative calm and quiet of the office for some adult head space, and regret that the fun is over and we are back to getting out of the house by 8am to do the nursery and school run.

We had a packed week. It started, happily, with me and DH having a night away in Bristol to let our hair down and be by ourselves for the first since I was diagnosed (not counting me recovering from chemo or surgery). Actually, we hadn’t had a night away since our 10th wedding anniversary last August, where my lovely parents took pity on our impoverished state at the time and booked us a very romantic night at Howard’s House in Wiltshire. This time, we stayed at the Bristol Hotel on the waterfront and retraced my old uni haunts, including lunch at Brown’s, where I had my graduation lunch. We saw a Banksy, and had some retail therapy (I am now totally down with the kids in my lime green Hollister t-shirt, although I was stunned that the shop was dark and I kept tripping over whippet-thin 13-year-olds in denim hotpants who were probably wondering what a sad middle aged woman was doing squinting in their midst).

We then had a very boozy dinner at Graze, a brasserie run by Bath Ales (River Exe clams, local lamb, pork belly, that sort of thing, with rather better wine than student days). And all weekend, we talked and talked and talked. We had long, honest, tearful conversations about what the past eight months have been like for us both and how we are feeling now and about the future. It was a very important 24hrs, much needed, and lovely to know we could relax with the children having fun with their grandparents.

Then, it was over to the kids. On Monday, we were at a rather brilliant birthday party for one of DD’s best friends, during which a ‘fairy ballerina’ kept 22 small girls and two boys entirely mesmerised with games and stuff for two hours. That’s some talent. Even DS was doing ‘ballet toes’ in his Spiderman outfit by the end. The mums loved her because it made the party almost effortless, and the dads just loved her.

On Wednesday, I took DD and DS to Peppa Pig World at Paulton’s Park near Southampton, where we met their cousin, auntie and grandma. It was pricey – a flat rate of £19.50 each if you book online, for everyone over 1m tall (luckily DS is still only 96cm…) – but worth it. The theming of the park is just perfect – the colours, the look and feel, the subtle use of the show’s music were all spot on – and the smalls loved it. Some of the queues were a bit tedious, but the seven main rides were lovely and all intended for adults to go on with younger children. Plus there was an outdoor play area and indoor soft play. DD was an enchanted angel, and DS only had four minor melt-downs during the day, which wasn’t bad for a two year old without a buggy in his first theme park, for more than five hours. I wouldn’t go in the school holidays unless you had no choice, but I thoroughly recommend it.

On Thursday, me and DD dispatched DS to nursery and headed up to London on the train. We went on the carousel on the South Bank, as always, then walked over the bridge to visit grandma’s office at the College of Optometrists , a beautiful four-storey building in Craven Street. DD was a little in awe of seeing my mummy being the boss, but asked for a tour, and was introduced to all the staff, many of whom have been extremely generous in donating to Team Pinchy’s Pink Ribbon Walk this Saturday. Then the three of us went to a little Italian place in Villiers Street before me and DD headed home.

On Friday, it was time for another day out down the M3, for my  wonderful mother-in-law’s coffee morning to raise more funds for Breast Cancer Care. She had rallied all her friends and former nursing colleagues, and during a lovely morning of homemade cakes in the sunshine, she managed to raise an astonishing £315. I’ve just checked our totaliser, and am delighted to report that even without this being paid in and other promised donations, we are at exactly £2,000! Whoop whoop! I thought that was a really ambitious target, so I’m chuffed to bits – thanks so much to everyone for being incredibly generous.

On Saturday, DD was invited to her first ‘pamper party’ by a school friend. She is four. Gulp. (And in the same week that the Mothers’ Union launched its campaign against the sexualisation of children). I went along as chaperone, needless to say, especially since the whole idea of little girls being ‘pageanted up’ contradicts what I said last year. It was at a really cool kids’ hair salon in Farnham called Spikes and Curls, where every chair (including some shaped like fire engines and planes for wriggly boys) was in front of a flat screen telly with CBeebies on.

The five girls had their hair curled, French-plaited and glittered. Fine. Then their nails done. OK, I let DD have painted nails for school holidays anyway. Then they were made up. Eeek. (Naturally they all chose pink eyeshadow.) I was quite struck that as the layers of blusher, mascara and lip gloss went on, my beautiful baby girl actually looked less and less pretty. Her giraffe lashes, freckly cheeks and grey-blue eyes just don’t require cover up or diversion. It was scarily close to the general effect of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. The girls loved it, of course, but it made me feel a bit queasy. The brilliant Linda Jones has written a great post, Why Are Our Daughters Growing Up Too Quickly, which struck a real chord with me.

Our last half term hurrah was a trip to the Thames Ditton Miniature Railway, down the road from my sis and her family. We had a marvellous afternoon going round and round on the pimped Hornby trains in the drizzle before the kiddies collapsed into bed, tired and happy. Me and DH finished our busy week with a bottle of red from the brilliant Naked Wines, plus The King’s Speech on box office, equally whacked out and content.

Because do you know what the best thing about this half term was? For the first time since DD started school last year, I felt like a normal, healthy mummy doing normal, fun holiday stuff. She’d barely started school when I was diagnosed, and the half terms, Christmas and Easter holidays since have basically been about me having scans, treatment, and hospital appointments, and recovering from chemo and surgery, rather than having fun with my kiddies.

I can’t say I was Mary Poppins all week and didn’t snap or feel tired, and I can’t say I didn’t enjoy stepping into my garden office this morning to the sound of the birds and nothing else. But I can say that I didn’t take a single moment for granted. It really was a precious week, and now I can’t wait to get radiotherapy out of the way (I’m seeing the radiology consultant tomorrow for the first time) so I can enjoy the summer holidays.

A tale of two parties…

Last Friday, we had a little Halloween party for the kiddies. DD had decided to have a party and invited her best mates before I’d even thought about it, so I sort of had to follow through. I got quite excited, did the massive Sainsbo’s shop, cos obviously you have to offer the grown-ups soft and hard drinks as well as getting all the stuff in for the nippers. I filled the house with tealights, fairy lights, pumpkins and various tacky decorations, put on some high heels and a witch’s hat, and chilled the cava. We had a great time, although I still can’t believe how much noise and mess nine small witches, cats, pumpkins, devils, princesses and skeletons can make in the space of two hours…

We made up for it on Saturday by allowing my olds to kidnap their beloved grandchildren and whip them back to the West Country so we could go to a wedding. I was as excited about the prospect of lie-in on Sunday as dressing up in a new frock and spending the day as Grown Ups, obviously.

Most of the other guests had jettisoned the kids as well. The funny thing was, although it was really lovely to totally relax and enjoy myself all day and evening, I did really miss the kiddies. DS would have just been a pain in the arse as he is still very little and rather high maintenance with nap requirements and not really at the running around all day stage yet, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the three gorgeous little bridesmaids. I kept thinking that actually DD would really have enjoyed it. Up to a point, of course – by 8pm she would have been hanging and desperate for bed, and she’s not one for falling asleep on overstuffed sofas under a coat so it could have gone horribly wrong at that point. And there is an awful lot of hanging about between things at a wedding that starts at midday. She would have loved the whole dressing up, party, food, cake, dancing thing, tho. I’m not sure how many more weddings we’ll be invited to in the near future as most of our friends are matched and hatched already, and she’s unlikely to be a bridesmaid as a child. I wondered if we should have taken DD and left DS with his doting grandparents.

Until Sunday morning when, with hangover fully in effect, cuddled up on sofa with tea, choccies and Sky+’d X Factor, when I realised that I couldn’t have had the best of both worlds. It would have been a completely different occasion if I was on mummy duty all day. The times when DH and I get to kick back together are so rare, and however torn I felt about leaving the babies, I can honestly say that I made the most of my 24 hours off.

Still recovering three days later, though. At 36, I think I’m just too old to do an all-dayer with occasional food and dancing for hours to early 90s rave music as we all attempted to re-live our uni days. Even with a lie-in to – whoo! – 8am!

Children’s parties: The Rules

How many children’s parties in a weekend is enough? On Saturday DD had very kindly been invited to two parties by pre-school friends, one a joint one. In the morning, me and DH took DD and DS to the party at a local soft play centre. It was lovely, tho noisy, and for some reason DH thought it would be a good idea to push his 14 month old son down a 10ft slide. The sliding bit was fine, landing on small face and cutting lip at bottom not so brilliant.

There were lots of kids there, plus the mums and dads I see on the nursery run, some of who have become friends. Lunch consisted of a bowl of Wotsits for DS to match his hair, and DD munched her way happily through cakes, sausages, chocolate spread sarnies, and misc. potato starch snacks.

I put our pressie on the present table. And then started to panic. There were loads of huge boxes, like the other mums had bought the contents of ELC

Small but perfect

Small but perfect

. And none of them looked like a token present. I had thought about what to buy all three birthday girls, bearing in mind that only one of them is an actual playdate friend. I like buying books and creative stuff for children, and I know what DD likes doing, so I settled on those really nice Usborne dolly dressing sticker books, with an extra one for the friend we see outside nursery. With a card and wrapping, this came to between £6 and £10 each. I heard one of the alpha mums commenting that at her son’s party (to which we were not invited) she was really surprised by how generous everyone had been. Our gift seemed rather meagre, suddenly.

For DD’s 3rd birthday in August, we had a joint party in the village hall with her best friend. It was bloody hard work with 24 kids, but all of the parents were good friends or relatives and we all chipped in to help. But now she’s in pre-school, and the trend seems to be to invite everyone in the class to parties. So what are the Rules here?

Is there some kind of protocol about who to invite, whether you have to accept, and how much you spend on a gift? I know these organised parties at catered venues cost money and sometimes the party bags alone seem to have cost more than the birthday present I’ve bought, even if the plastic stuff does end up in bits in the bin within minutes of getting home. If you accept an invitation to the party of a child you don’t know very well, are you are entering into a contract to purchase a large gift? Or is a small, thoughtful present OK? 

On Saturday, DH took DD to the afternoon party by himself while I looked after DS. They had a ball, with the exact same set of kids and parents as in the morning, although DD came home with someone’s footprint on her face from the bouncy castle. I don’t know who was more knackered, DD or her dad, after two parties and rather too much sugar…