Joe Hilde­brand

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Contents - Joe co-hosts Stu­dio 10, 8.30am week­days, on Net­work Ten and is Ed­i­tor-at-large for News.com.au. JOE HILDE­BRAND

asks the ques­tion: “Where have all the par­ties gone?”

What­ever hap­pened to our par­ties?” the man said. It was a good ques­tion and, like most good ques­tions, I couldn’t an­swer it.

Ex­cept that this time it wasn’t be­cause I was too drunk or too stupid or merely lost for words. This time it was be­cause I had to put on a black plas­tic mask and polyester yester cape and teach a group of preschool­ers eschool­ers to play “What’s the time, ime, Mr Vader?”

As it turns out there is noth­ing so guar­an­teed d to cause com­plete psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tional dis­in­te­gra­tion n as your child’s fifth birth­day rth­day party, and I say that as a stu­dent of Aus­tralian pol­i­tics.

The brief was sim­ple enough. My son on wanted a Bat­man party. ty. The prob­lem was Kmart didn’t dn’t have any Bat­man in­vi­ta­tions ations and, frankly, we didn’t dn’t quite love him enough to o go bou­tique. Ever the prag­ma­tist, ma­tist, I de­cided to try ry Big W.

“Great news, ws, son!” I said, burst­ing through ugh the door. “You know how ow you like Bat­man? Well, l, how much do you love Star ar Wars?!”

It turned out ut that Big W had sold out of su­per­hero in­vi­ta­tions but ut still had some Star Wars ones left. I also took the cups and nap­kins kins for good mea­sure. Sud­denly our Bat­man party had be­come a Darth Vader party. My son had gone from be­ing an an­gry vig­i­lante who stalked peo­ple at night to an evil over­lord who ruled the uni­verse in fear. For­tu­nately these were both roles he was highly prac­tised in, but it was still dif­fi­cult to ex­plain to the othe other par­ents. “So is it a su­per­hero party or a Star Wars party?” a child’s mo mother would gen­tly ask. “It’s both!” I would snap b back be­fore turn­ing around and pre­tend pre­tend­ing to hail a bus. Then I would re re­mem­ber I was in a swim­ming pool. po Even the act of sendin send­ing out the in­vi­ta­tions was a so­cial mine­field, largely be­cause they came ca in packs of eight. “What about Khan?” Khan? my son im­plored with tear-fil tear-filled eyes. “Sorry kid,” I said said. “It’s your fault for mak­ing h him your 17th best friend.” frien Then the there was pass-the-p pass-the-par­cel. As with all modern birth­day p par­ties, chil­dren’s soc­cer games and the Rus­sian Ol Olympic squad, the o one golden rule is that ev­ery­body has t to go home with a prize. And so we had to wrap a toy into ev ev­ery sin­gle layer of the par­cel lest any child be dis­ap­pointed. Any­one who thinks news­pa­pers are dead clearly hasn’t had to pre­pare for this game. But the one thing no­body could have pre­pared for was my mother com­ing to the party as Bat­girl.

“Er, Mum,” I hissed in the car, “when we said it was a dress-up party, we meant for the kids!”

“That’s OK, dar­ling,” she replied breezily. “I’ll just wear the tu­nic and cape.”

I tried to apol­o­gise to one of the dads: “There’s a fine line be­tween dress-up and cos­play.”

He nod­ded with what I be­lieve is called the thou­sand-yard stare. Then he said, “What­ever hap­pened to our par­ties?”

Stand­ing in my Tar­get thongs with a non-al­co­holic drink in my hand, I knew they were gone, and gone for­ever.

Then I turned to see my son fall­ing down laugh­ing while a kid dressed as Iron Man whacked him with a lightsaber.

That’s what hap­pened to our par­ties, I thought. We never ac­tu­ally lost them, we just gave them away.

“I turned to see my son laugh­ing while a kid dressed as Iron Man whacked him”

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