It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Anatomy of a Successful Party

Here you see George helping Mary make sangria. When it was all done, George informs me:
“My mummy and daddy don’t drink alcohol.”

I am surprised. “They don’t?” And I’m thinking back through previous parties, trying to recall whether they’d imbibed. I thought they had…

“No, they don’t.” But the boy is bright, and very calmly, 110% convinced, and his parents are NOT the type to hide it if they did. So. Maybe they don’t.

“What about when you go to Patty’s?” (The neighbourhood pub, where they frequently have dinner.) “Doesn’t daddy have a pint?”

“No, he has a Creemore.”

“Creemore is alcohol, love.”

He looks at me. Shame I’m so stupid, really. “No it’s not. It’s beer.”

“Beer is alcohol, George.”

He takes this well. “Oh. Then my mummy and daddy drink alcohol, because they both drink a lot of beer.”

Bwah-ha. I can hardly wait to tell his (moderate, cautious, very quiet) mother this one!


I scampered through the post-lunch tidy-up; I raced out during naps to buy fruit for the sangria (Emma was home; I have parental permission to do this); I tidied like a madwoman; I showered, changed, made dip for the veggie platter, cut up vegetables and arranged them artistically (on a plug-UGLY orange tray – who GAVE us that thing???), and, as per the above, made sangria with George. By the time the children had woken from their naps, I was ready to put on make-up.

Yes. At three-thirty in the afternoon. You think I bother with make-up routinely? When my daytime audience is all under three feet tall?

But all five tots are all awake, and I want to put on make-up before the parents arrive. It is possible! I have all the basics – eye-liner, mascara, lip-liner, lipstick, and eye shadow – in my purse. WITH a mirror. I don’t need to vanish into the bathroom, I can do it right here in the living room, if I can keep the kids busy. While not looking at them. Or touching them. Hmmm…

Mary is a Multi-Tasker Extraordinaire. We shall play a game of Sleeping Bunnies! Because you can SING and APPLY EYE-LINER at the SAME TIME. Yes, you can. You should try it some time.

“Sleeping bunnies, ’till it’s nearly noon.” The children lie on the floor, faces hidden in their arms. I line my left eye.
“Come let us wake them with a merry tune.” Right eye.
“Oh. So. Still.” Pause. The tots twitch in anticipation. I spread out that line while I put the liner away, whip out the mascara. Right upper lashes.
“Are they i-i-i-i-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-lll?” Right lower lashes.
Drop wand into my lap and clap.
“WAKE UP, LITTLE BUNNIES!!! Hop, little bunnies, hop, hop, hop! (x2) Hop, little bunnies, hop little bunnies, Hop…and…. STOP.”

And they all lie down again. It takes a couple more verses to get both eyes done, and then I haul out the lip stuff. This is trickier – but you CAN sing while colouring your lips. Your enunciation is a little off, but heck, their enunciation is a little less than crisp and clear. We are halfway through the fourth verse, and Mary’s lips are just about perfect, when the first parent – the one who never wears make-up – walks through the door.

I wonder what it looks like to her, Mary peering into small compact mirror while applying lipstick to (perfectly!) lined lips, while her child hops like a bunny around the living room. I wonder, but I don’t ask. I merely rescue the curried chicken mango salad she’s brought. (Um, yum. You didn’t think I was bad-mouthing this wonderful woman, did you? So what, she never wears make-up and is possibly questioning my qualifications to care for her child at this very moment? She brings curried chicken mango salad to my parties!)

I have a great bunch of parents this year. Sangria at Mary’s, originally intended to be a quiet, hour-long event before dinner, expanded to three hours, and eventually included the aforesaid curried chicken mango salad (I now have the recipe!!), nachos, a vegetable platter (I did that), lovely teeny whole-wheat oatmeal dinner rolls, a huge bag of kettle chips, and a tray of samosas and hot sauce. Yummm…

Oh, and biiig pitcher of sangria. Topped up twice. Not much left now but the wine-marinated fruit, which Emma has discovered she loves. (Emma was allowed to have a glass of sangria. The girl is taller and heavier than me. One won’t send her tumbling into a drunken future begging for booze on the streets. When Emma went for a second glass, though, I caught her at it. Moderation, my dear! And then I had to drink it. So sad.)


We also had a kiddie version of sangria for the tots and the woman percolating a tot. (See the little juice boxes?) It was yummy, too: pomegranate juice, club soda, and as much fruit as was in the sangria. (Lemon and orange, sliced very thin, raspberries, and cherries.) It didn’t have the three tablespoons added sugar nor the litre of Spanish red, but it was tart and tasty, as a good sangria should be. (Because if you’re making sangria, the wine should be Spanish, no? Seems only reasonable.)

Turns out that carbonated stuff should be kept OUT of juice boxes. Those things leaked everywhere, all the time. They could just be sitting on the table, then they’d quietly burp a few drops up through the straw. Very weird. (I think it speaks well of my nutritional standards that it took eleven or twelve years of daycare to find this out…)

Heard at the party:

“So when you said to me, ‘When someone aggresses against you, it’s appropriate to be angry, to have your self-esteem say ‘I don’t deserve that’.’ I listened, and I thought to myself, ‘You know? She’s absolutely right!’ ”

Mmmm… strokes for Mary!

Said at the party (by me):

“You dealt with that absolutely perfectly, Jenna. Good for you!”

[“That” being her child’s attempt to bite her.]

Another couple exchanges meaningful glances and points at each other. “Hey, hon. Are you taking notes?”

Jenna preens a bit.

Heard at the party:

“So my grandmother was just a teeny little thing, but she was a spitfire. She met a friend when she, granny, was out shopping with her either-year-old son, my father, in Suva, Fiji, where they lived. The friend’s four-year-old was having a lay-on-the-floor and kick-and-scream tantrum.

‘Oh, Mavis!’ cried the friend. ‘I don’t know what to dooooo!’

So my grandmother reached down and grabbed the child by his ear, and marched him right out of the store. The friend was clucking along behind her, ‘Oh, Mave! Don’t hurt him! You’re hurting him! Oh, Mave!’

My gran deposited him on the street outside the store, and turned to her friend. ‘There!’ she said. ‘THAT’S what you do! YOU’RE bigger than him!’ ”

Heh. I’ve heard it before, but I do love this story. And it led to a lovely conversation about the parent’s right to be angry, about how parental authority is held in suspicion in our culture, about how it can be abused, but that to exercise it appropriately is part of the job description of parenthood. Great stuff.

The kinda wimpy parents left first (because their child was behaving horribly – whining and trying to bite and throwing things and screeching “MINE!!!” whenever another child played with a toy, any toy, ugh) (evidencing what happens in the absence of parental authority); the pregnant family left next, because mummy, bless her 7-month belly, was tired. And then I was left with my two favourite families, who I will invite back – SOON – for a social evening, just for fun. As in, to make friends, not just be nice to clients. And we will talk about jobs and the weather and travel and friendship and relationships and words and aspirations and histories and our homes and our future plans and what we love and what we loathe, and our gardens and our hobbies, and…

And NOT our children.

Yes, it was a Good Evening.

August 17, 2007 - Posted by | commemoration, daycare, George, parenting, parents, power struggle


  1. Sounds like a LOVELY time was had by all! Enjoy your holiday, too! It sounds like a good change of pace.

    Comment by Ms. Huis Herself | August 17, 2007 | Reply

  2. What a perfect start to your holiday! Enjoy your time off!

    Comment by Karly @ Indescribable Life | August 17, 2007 | Reply

  3. One of the things Q needs to learn is how to say that he still wants to keep playing with a toy, when another child tries to grab it from him (without defending the toy with aggression or instead bursting into tears). Spending time with the other kids in his new preschool is certainly going to give him many opportunities!

    That sounds like a splendid party. Have a fabulous holiday!

    Comment by Lady M | August 17, 2007 | Reply

  4. Sounds like a perfectly wonderful party. Enjoy your time without the kidlets.

    Comment by Dani | August 17, 2007 | Reply

  5. Lovely! I was most impressed by the fact that you did NOT know that fizz must be kept out of juice boxes!

    Comment by Tammy | August 17, 2007 | Reply

  6. Ms. Huis: I will enjoy my holiday. In fact, given that it is, at this moment, 5:37 p.m. on Friday, I AM enjoying my holiday!!

    Karly, Dani: Thanks! I will.

    LadyM: Without getting aggressive or bursting into tears. It’s a tricky thing, confident and respectful self-assertion. Not all adults manage it…

    Tammy: Swear to God, not a clue. ‘Course, my own kids – the ones I’m more likely to be polluting with sugar and additives – were done with sippy cups before their second birthday. That may have something to do with it… 🙂

    Comment by MaryP | August 17, 2007 | Reply

  7. Oh Mary, I wish we lived close enough to send LS to your day care – she’s just the right age for your group! We had BB in a home center for a while and loved it (she shut down when most of “her” kids – including her own – went to first grade, and her old job called her.) LS will soon be moving to the day care/preschool that BB went to – and still goes to in the summer – and I couldn’t be happier. It’s very small – never more than 15 kids enrolled – and has had the same teachers the entire 3 years we’ve been there. It’s almost as good as a home center.

    Comment by BookMama | August 17, 2007 | Reply

  8. Never had Sangria, but oh, you’re sure making it tempting to run to the store and get stuff to make it. Sounds YUM!

    Love how George put two and two together, funny!

    It’s neat how you socialize with the families this way, much more personal.

    Comment by mamacita tina | August 18, 2007 | Reply

  9. That sounds like a fantastic time.
    I’m a smidge jealous I couldn’t share in it, too!

    Comment by kittenpie | August 18, 2007 | Reply

  10. This sounds like so much fun! I haven’t done one with all my parents but I think I might ought to.

    And your next post IS going to be the recipe for the mango chicken curry business, right?

    Comment by kelli in the mirror | August 19, 2007 | Reply

  11. FUN! I actually love that George helped make the Sangria, too. And, please: recipe!

    Comment by candace | August 22, 2007 | Reply

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