Party poopers... Myleene Klaas embroiled in mom wars
Myleene Klass has found herself embroiled in a spat over birthday gifts for two of her daughter's classmates. Have we lost the run of ourselves when it comes to children's parties, asks Katy McGuinness
Celebrity mum Myleene Klass has got herself into trouble over the thorny question of children's parties. Her daughter, Ava (7), was invited to the birthday party of two girls in her class at a private, fee-paying, all-girls school in North London. So far, so good. It's great when your children are included. Except that Myleene then took to social media to berate the mothers of the little girls for suggesting that guests contribute to the cost of specific presents that the children wanted. Cue mom wars.
Every parent knows that the two-and-a-half hours of the average children's party pass more slowly even than time spent in the dentist's chair. Small people are noisy, and other people's children invariably have inferior manners to your own beautifully brought up angels. Children's parties are expensive, too, once you've paid for the entertainer or activity.
The old-fashioned homemade party that we all remember from our childhoods - pass the parcel, musical chairs, jelly and ice-cream - sounds attractive, until you try it. If you've ever attempted to save money by forgoing third-party help and doing it all yourself, you'll know that the professionals work hard for their money.
Another thing that has changed over the years is the number of guests considered appropriate. It used to be that the child was allowed to invite one person for each year being celebrated - five for five-years-old, eight for eight-years-old and so on. Now much larger numbers are the norm, with whole-class invitations standard for the under-10s. That's a lot of balloons and cocktail sausages.
As the numbers grow, so does the level of waste involved. Anyone who has ever had the 'pleasure' of clearing up after a party at home will be all too familiar with scraping marshmallows off the carpet, piling mountains of uneaten food into the bin, and litres of fizzy drink down the sink. And that's just the food.
The typical haul of gifts is a tawdry array of cheap plastic and budget craft kits - are there really eight-year-olds who like to make candles in their spare time? No, didn't think so - and nasty, skin-irritating bath products and hideous synthetic nightwear.
If a child has 20 guests at her party, each bringing a gift that costs a modest €10, that's €200 of rubbish arriving into a house. Rubbish that will languish in a cupboard until it is either regifted or deposited at the local charity shop. Add to that the cost of going-home bags for all - say at an average cost of €3 - and that's another €60 spent on sugar and plastic that is neither needed nor wanted.
Myleene attracted plenty of attention for her Instagram posting of emails that she had received from the mothers of girls in her daughter's class in school, in relation to an upcoming birthday party.
The women suggested that the guests might like to make a donation of £10 so that the birthday girls would be able to combine those donations and purchase a 'big' present of a Kindle and a writing desk respectively. Klass claims to want to put the fun back into birthdays and joked that her daughter was asking for a live unicorn for her own birthday, and that she wouldn't mind a Ferrari and a Leonardo DiCaprio herself. The reaction on Mumsnet.com was mainly supportive, praising her for calling out a greedy, grasping trend. But where's the fun in squandering money on things that nobody wants?
The mothers that Myleene took to task may have phrased their request clumsily, and they were undeniably smug about their daughters' precocious requests, but their intentions were good. Far better that their children end up with one decent, wanted present each than a random assembly of toyshop detritus.
But in taking on the mothers in Ava's class, Myleene has done her daughter no favours. She has said that the events took place more than a year ago, and that she changed all names so that the children and their mothers would not be identified. But they know who they are, and they know Myleene's daughter, too.
The former pop star is said to have been challenged outside the school by parents asking her why she felt compelled to go public. Myleene is said to have asked them to speak to her in private if they had a problem with what she had said - a bizarre response in the circumstances
The headmistress of the school has addressed the controversy in the weekly newsletter, admonishing Myleene for distracting her from the education business at hand: "If you can't tweet something nice," said the principal, "don't tweet anything at all".
One solution to all this nonsense would be outlaw gifts and going-home bags altogether. It's already happening in some schools, where the parents in a class agree a party policy for the year ahead.
Val Reid from Dalkey got together with two other parents of children in her daughter Molly's class who had birthdays at around the same time. They decided that they would co-host a party for the three children. A mother of four, Val had been around the block in terms of children's parties for her older children and wanted to have something that was simpler and less expensive.
"We invited everyone in the class to come to a playground in the area. They each brought food to share for a picnic. We asked them not to bring presents, but instead to bring a donation of a fiver each. The birthday children each got a voucher for €20 and we gave the rest to an animal charity.
"The kids were delighted to hand over more than €50 to the local dog rescue service. Frankly, I'd be delighted to make a donation at any party - if someone makes it easier for me, and I don't have to go trawling around the shops for a gift, I'm there."