I think it’s finally time for me to talk about my worst party ever. I’ll be honest, although it was a good few years ago I still get the shivers and experience a feeling of impending doom when playing it back in my head. I’ve got a feeling though sharing what happened is going to be cathartic so here goes. It was my 14th party and things had mostly gone pretty well. I’d only had one disaster with an avalanche of balloons which I talked about previously here. If I’m honest, I think I started believing that I really knew what I was doing and that things were going to be easy. It’s almost laughable how naive I was but how was I to know the numerous potential pitfalls awaiting me.
The fateful party was for two brothers, Toby and Oliver who were turning 4 and 7. As I arrived and walked into the hall the boys were there with their mum. “Hi Mr Banana Head, this is Toby.” I said hello, turned to Oliver and smiled. “Ah and you must be Olivia.” He looked me up and down, muttered “Whatever mate, and walked off. I didn’t think much of it, brought all my stuff in and started setting up. As this was still early days I was using my Mr Banana Head stickered B&Q carry case and laying out all my props on a table.
The party started and everyone sat down. Oliver was right in the middle, arms folded staring at me like a possessed ninja. Can ninja’s be possessed, who knows but there he was, staring. You wouldn’t think a seven year old could make me nervous but I just started to feel a little uneasy and not quite sure why. I bought Mango the monkey out and one of the first things he did was tear my tongue out. It might sound nightmare inducing and traumatising but I can assure you it was definitely PG rather than 18. Oliver burst out laughing and I thought to myself, this is going to be fine.
Three minutes later and with his arms still folded and the stare still in full swing he stands up, shouts out, “Let’s go outside everyone, this is rubbish.” 26 of the 28 other guests all got up and followed him outside. The only two left were Toby and his Grandma. I carried on gamely for 15 mins by which time most of Toby’s friends had gradually come back and sat down. Oliver and his friends were completely A.W.O.L. It was only when I announced it was time for the birthday trick that Oliver returned, still looking completely disinterested.
One of his friends made a bee line for my nest of magic wands (6 inside each other) and as I tried to take it back off him they went flying across the room. Oliver smiled and said, “Shame mate, looks like we’ve ruined your trick.” Another friend grabbed a handful of my props and ran off with them. Oliver then went back outside and I carried on without him. By the time we got to the break I was ready to cry at what had been a total disaster. Always seeing the cup half full I reflected that at least it couldn’t get much worse.
The children finished their food in about 6 minutes and started charging around screaming and fighting each other. The boy’s mum came up to me and said, “Well come on then, entertain them.” I explained that this was the time where I reset everything and got ready for the second half with the games, music and dancing. She walked off not happy and the screaming continued. We finally restarted and I got my parachute out. Oliver and his friends had gone outside again so it was me, the four year olds and the Grandma who gave me a sorrowful look that said, “I feel your pain.” Just as I thought it was finally going well, Oliver and his friends came charging back in, grabbed the parachute and ran off with it. I eventually got it back after a chase and played musical games instead. All I can say is thank god for the Grandma for being nice enough to join in with everything.
The party was finally over, I was holding the tears in and went to get paid. The mum handed me the money and said, “Thanks for coming.” I left, got into the car and sat shaking for about fifteen minutes. For about 4 years afterwards if I ever had an enquiry for a 7 year old boy’s party I had questions:
“Is he an old 7 or a young 7?”
“Has he said he actually wants an entertainer?”
“Does he like slapstick?”
I was unduly paranoid and in fact every single 7 year old party since then has been absolutely fine. I learnt a very important lesson that day that I have never forgotten. When I go in and meet the birthday child I’m always gentle, never loud or outgoing and make sure they get to know me at their pace. It’s probably the most important lesson out of all of them and has helped me time and time again. I also never take anything for granted and at every single party I’m focussing on the children and how they’re reacting to everything.
Thank you Oliver.