I’m not convinced our kids even know some of the children whose parties they’ve been to.
For example, last week I arrived at some celebration with Mary and the child – all excited on his fifth birthday – greeted us at the door.
Mary looked at him blankly and said, ‘who’s he?’
She then followed this highly embarrassing moment by, at the end, peering inside the party bag handed to her by the child’s mother and saying loudly, voice dripping with disdain, ‘this is rubbish – there aren’t any sweets in it’.
We had a long chat in the car afterwards about that one.
At the latest party – at yet another soft play centre (if I become prime minister – and it’s a matter of time - my first act will be to abolish all soft play centres throughout the UK with immediate effect ) – Mary insisted on taking her blanket with her.
To explain, my daughter has had a grey patterned blanket, knitted for her by a relative with too much time on their hands, since she was a baby and rarely goes anywhere without it.
It has a name – Blankety – and a gender.
It’s male, though quite why or how Mary has decided it’s a man I’m not sure.
After all it’s a blanket and therefore has no genitals, so it’s kind of difficult to determine its sex.
However, it does like to watch football, has a beard, and stands up when it goes to the toilet, so perhaps she’s right.
She took this blanket to the soft play party and, while she ran off with 50,000 other kids to jump around in a ball pool for an hour and catch various diseases, I made small-talk with one of the dads. (This happens at every soft play party. The mums get on famously because they already know each other from the million WhatsApp groups they belong to, whereas the dads are usually meeting for the first time and so awkwardly sit talking about football and DIY).
Having exhausted the offside rule and the benefits of a cordless drill, I began light-heartedly describing Mary’s blanket obsession and told him I was getting a bit worried about her still having a blanket at the age of five.
This isn’t true – I’m not worried at all, I was just making conversation and trying to make him laugh – but as I was telling him he began looking increasingly concerned and started nodded sagely.
“Yes, that is worrying,” he said, when I stopped babbling on.
Then he added, gravely, “Have you considered taking her to see a child counsellor?”
This took me aback because I’d always thought of her attachment to the blanket as quite charming and cute, a little item which simply makes her feel secure and safe.
But suddenly I began to have doubts.
What if this guy was right and it was a sign of a deeper psychological problem?
What if she was some kind of weirdo who would grow up to be a mass murderer, her chosen method of killing to suffocate her victims with a blanket?
Suddenly I was envisaging my daughter being the centre of a Channel 5 documentary entitled, ‘Blanket Girl: The Inside Story of the Killer Who Bought Terror To Britain’.
But just as I was considering if it might be best to give her up for adoption, I thought back to my own childhood and it made me fret less.
This is because between the ages of about four and eight – yes, eight – I owned an imaginary trumpet.
I kid you not.
My dad had a friend who played trombone in the Halle Orchestra.
I was taken to watch him in action a few times and must’ve been in awe of him because my own trombone thing began shortly afterwards.
I took my trombone with me wherever I went (just to remind you, there was no trombone; it was a figment of my imagination).
It had its own case, which I carried around with me, holding my left arm out at a funny angle and curling my fingers around thin air, as if holding onto something (which must’ve looked pretty freaky to anyone passing by - ‘Hey Shirley, did you see that kid with the funny arm?’ “He’s probably got a disability Bryan. Poor lad”).
I would, at irregular intervals and with great care, place the imaginary case down, open it by undoing the latches, and then spend whole minutes playing it – which, as you will be aware if you’ve witnessed a trombone being played, involved moving my right arm back and forth in quite energetic and, some may say, demented fashion.
My parents never said anything but I feel sure – what with my insistence they also throw the monkey out of the house before I went to sleep (‘Ok’, my dad would shout up the stairs about 8pm every evening while opening and closing the front door, ‘he’s outside now’) - there must’ve been a point at which they feared I was, how can I put this, mental.
At least Mary’s blanket actually exists, so I won’t take her to a counsellor just yet. Though if she’s still got it when she’s 37, I’ll maybe reconsider.