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Charge of the tiny brigade at party time; Paternity TEST By Dave Owens The trials and tribulations of an exhausted father.

Byline: Dave Owens

THE scene is akin to a crack unit of tiny hooligans laying siege to an inflatables factory. It's a riot of colour, noise and the occasional outbreak of tantrums and tears.

Like a hyper uprising these three and four-year-old interlopers are attempting to break everything in sight by charging at it, launching themselves off it or trying to scare it into crumbling before their eyes by screaming at it in a hitherto undiscovered decibel register.

Forget rhinos charging, or an elephant stampede, even David Attenborough's finest natural history unit would struggle to document this riotous assembly of pint-sized perpetrators.

A game stick tail on donkey pass We're assembled at Cardiff Central Youth Club for my daughter's fourth birthday party and the scene is rather like the fall of Rome as filmed by Aardman Animation.

parcel would been enough placate even most demanding of 1970s Not that we mind of course, all we parents are really concerned with, if we allow ourselves to admit it, is just how worn out our children are at the end of it all - and, more importantly, how soon after their heads hit the pillow will they be throwing Zzzzzs around the bedroom with as much alacrity as they are presently throwing themselves headlong into their bulbous assault course.

1980s children They say there's no rest for the wicked. And that particular phrase has had me thinking what sort of heinous crimes my wife and I must have committed in a past life to have spawned a daughter whose birthday lands so close to Christmas.

After the frenzied sugar rush of the chocolate Advent calendar propelled countdown to Christmas, Elinor has existed in a perpetual state of excitement as the days to her birthday rolled by.

Keeping her grounded has been akin to reining in a kangaroo with a taste for heights.

So this window between Christmas and the first week of the New Year has not been spent working out elaborate fitness plans, penning copious resolutions or just sleeping off the festive excess, it's all been focused on making sure our daughter's party went off without a hitch.

Life with a young child can be particularly stressful but planning their parties can be exhausting.

of the There's choosing the venue, getting the invitations out, hoping everyone will turn up and then praying that those kids who don't know each other actually get along and that two sides do not treat the venue as some sort of brightly coloured Gaza Strip. Nowadays the pressure on parents to throw extravagant birthday parties for their kids is incredible.

the Whereas a tea " or the have to the or party at your house with a game of stick the tail on the donkey or pass the parcel would have been enough to placate even the most demanding of 1970s or 1980s children, nowadays the expectation to return ever more lavish affairs is a bewildering burden for parents.

Talking to friends who have kids, they despair at not only the cost but the titanic planning exercise that has to go into placating the little ones. Now the magical experience of your child's birthday is tempered by the monumental logistics and the financial layout at a time when we all need to tighten our belts as the recession continues to bite.

Thankfully, the party went brilliantly, neither of us suffered a nervous breakdown and our marriage is still intact. Just.

Now, our New Year can start in earnest this week.

And my resolution for 2013? Not thinking of planning Elinor's fifth birthday party for 11 months at least.

Happy days.

A game of stick the tail on the " donkey or pass the parcel would have been enough to placate even the most demanding of 1970s or 1980s children
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 8, 2013
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