Joseph Kelly, EB Blogger
Like quite a lot of people I’ve heard about key parties but I’ve never actually been invited to one or even met someone who has admitted going to one. Which makes me suspect the concept is a myth. But it’s not the only party myth rife in suburbia – parents have long talked about the “drop-and-go” party, but so far the reality has eluded me.
The drop and go party, much like the key party, is based on an impossibly simple premise. You take your kids to a party, push them through the front door and then pick them up at a pre-arranged time. There’s no awkward small talk with parents you haven’t met before, no having to be the parent yelling out “I THINK THAT'S ENOUGH SUGAR FOR YOU, SWEET PEA!” and, most indulgent of all, no kids for a couple of hours on the weekend. It sounds almost too good to be true. And it is.
The first problem with a drop and go party is that it requires a very committed host. Very very committed. Not only must the host be able to control their own over-excited birthday child, but they must also have an eye on a murder of toddlers who are just waiting for a sign of weakness from the supervising adult before they tear the joint apart. The host also has to be insanely confident in their ability to keep the kids entertained, distracted, fed, clean, toileted, unharmed and contained within the borders of the party house. In my life to date I have not met such a host (although, admittedly, if I had more friends who were prison wardens . . .).
The second problem is that the drop and go party requires you the parent to be confident that your child won’t eat their own body weight in lollies, throw up on their new party clothes and fight the birthday child for the presents. Even with the most diligent one-on-one supervision, I have personally witnessed this half a dozen times with both Maisie and Frances so the idea of either of them unsupervised at a party leaves me in a cold sweat. And the few hours without the kids would be little compensation for the awkward moment when you go to pick your child up and the host greets you with “Ah, well, yes... we had a very interesting time... Do your children always tear their clothes off when they're excited?”
And lastly you need a child that is happy at being unceremoniously dumped into a social scene that, from the outside, looks like a Quentin Tarentino reinterpretation of Lord of the Flies. A birthday bash is no place for the faint hearted – kids are flying everywhere, there’s more food to be consumed than kids can comprehend, there is a mind-blowing array of activities and toys to play with and all this is mixed with an endless supply of adrenaline fuelling sugar. Kids have a simple choice: get in or get hurt. If your child is in anyway reserved or shy, then attending a party without their very own adult guardian is a very scary proposition.
But I’m happy to be told that it’s just me, that other people’s children are well behaved when left unsupervised. What are your experiences? Is there a very lively subculture in Australian society that indulges in the odd ‘drop and go’ party? Comment on Joseph's blog.