Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The party animals

Last weekend we had a party. It wasn't a birthday party per se, although a birthday was the catalyst; it was just a chance to invite a heap of people over and play some music and make drinks with bubbles and have a few conversations out of the usual contexts and feel the house bursting at the seams.

Because so many of our friends have children, it began at 5. By 6 o'clock, the house was pumping with energy as a tribe of kids ran around, bounced on the trampoline, and spilled fruit juice on the floor. They were like liquid mercury, splitting into bubbles and joining together again as they moved through the house. We turned up the stereo and peeked through the glass doors of the lounge room as a group of four to seven year olds practised their groovy dance moves. People talked loudly and waved their glasses around as plate after plate of food was demolished and a good dent was made in some serious pots of soup.

Soon after 8, kids were getting ratty and most of them were taken home. Friends without children began drifting in, but we were totally exhausted and the house was a bombsite. Three hours of partying with kids is quite enough for us these days. We ended up slouching around, listening to old jazz and chatting quietly. So much for partying.

It was weird. I felt like the party should start once the kids went to bed – after all, now it was adult time – yet clearly it had ended. With the kids gone I was curled in an armchair telling old stories and trying not to yawn too obviously. I felt tired and a little boring, and worried that I don't know how to party properly.

But for the first half of the night I had had a ball. I cuddled a baby and chased some toddlers and chatted with an eight year old and put on music that made the kinder kids really shake their hips. I realised that I really like parties with kids. I don't invite them because I'm a kind and thoughtful person who knows how hard it is to get a babysitter; I invite them because I like it loud and chaotic and lively. I like to see the barriers between adult and child melt as we all demolish cheesy pastries and wiggle to the music; I like watching children of all ages form a tribe and vanish upstairs; I like talking with people who are too young to be self-consciously clever or fashionable or funny, or be anything but themselves.

Wherever did I get the idea that a party is an adult affair? Why did I feel like the 'real' party should start once the kids are in bed? Because that's not true for me anymore – in fact, I'm not sure it ever was. I never felt comfortable standing around nursing a drink and trying to be witty or interesting. At a 'real' party, I feel lumpish and can't wait to get home. But lace a party with a bunch of young kids, and I loosen up and have a ball.

Yet again, my assumptions have been shattered by the laughter of young children, and I've learned something important about myself. Just as important, I've learned that the real guests at a party are not always the handpicked ones, the interesting and intelligent adults; the real guests, the ones that make the house rock and the party bubble and everyone laugh with joy, are the people forced to tag along with their parents, and who go to bed at 8.


  1. I like parties with kids too, just because it's great to see them like it.

    A bit of jazz in any context doesn't hurt.

  2. I must admit it was a treat to see you sitting alone in a beautiful dress on a lovely green velvet chair without children, chatting with your friends. So relaxed and beautiful and so very very charming.

    Happy Birthday. Nancy

  3. I love this post!, and feel exactly the same, I love a house full of people and kids.
    PS Love your blog, just found my way here from Listening Space.


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