As a mum, particularly one with pre-school children, you soon realise that birthdays become a big part of your life - and more often than not it is other children’s, writes Peterborough mum Donna Steele.
As soon as they start going to tots’ groups and then pre-school the invites start to come thick and fast; weekends are no longer your own and you suddenly become familiar with unfamiliar church and village halls as well as some more fun-orientated specialist play centres.
But, when it comes around to your turn, it is never easy - and anyone who saw the opening episode of Motherland on BBC2 this week will have seen why planning is important.
The first couple of birthdays, when the host and the guests are toddlers, it is easy - it is more or less a gathering of parents.
But, by the time they get to five they have ideas of their own!
Who to invite is an interesting one, as any mum will tell you. Through pre-school it was pretty much the same faces - and when she left all that behind in the summer those names stuck with her.
One term into reception class at her new school, however, and the guest list was suddenly almost unrecognisable as new friends’ names were mentioned on a weekly basis. Thank goodness we didn’t send out the invites three months ago!
Then there is the theme.
The princess party at Charming Palace last year seems a lifetime away - with Anna and Elsa replaced by superheroes as the theme for this month’s celebration – and I am already looking forward to seeing who comes as who, given that most characters are male, and most of the guests are girls.
The host and little sister will be Captain America, I know that for sure, and we have already had acceptances from Hulk, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman and Superman.
On to the venue...
I sometimes envy those parents with summer babies who just throw open the doors to the garden and let the party guests have fun in the sun.
Having a November baby, though, I have found winter pretty much rules out parties at home with the wet and cold garden off limits, so choosing a venue can become a headache - and costly if you are not careful.
Is it the local community centre, with sandwiches, sausage rolls, cakes and the like made at home, to keep the costs down, or somewhere that specialises in kids’ parties and lays everything on... at a price?
Having a joint event with a friend, saving on two parties by sharing the cost, certainly helps and is happening more and more these days.
It also kind of makes sense when children have birthdays days apart and are likely to invite the same people!
It is also a great idea when you factor in food for all the guests young and old (when you don’t want the hassle of doing it yourself), party bags, bouncy castle and a guest appearance by a webslinger!
It also means I will be able to sit back and enjoy the fun with the other grown-ups, knowing we are in the familiar surroundings and safe hands of the professionals (my colleagues) at Tu Danse Studios, where I teach.
However I might just ask them to teach the kids the dance moves to the Superman record from the 1980s.... so I can re-live a little of my own childhood at Brown’s Dance Centre on Lincoln Road.
I won’t bother dressing up, though, as my husband already thinks I am Wonder Woman!