I should have known something was a little odd when the birthday party invite came home from school on Friday and Miss8 told us the party was on Saturday, the very next day.
"No, the party is a month away," Tracey told her. This is February and the invite said the party was on the 4th of March.
"Nooooo. It's tomorrow," insisted Miss8. So Tracey rang and it was indeed the next day.
A mother a little unsure of the date, let alone her daughter's birthday, should possibly have signaled something wasn't quite right.
Now I'm tired: having a new baby in the house, even one as perfect and gorgeous as ours, zaps the patience right out of you. So maybe I'm overreacting here. You be the judge.
Because Cousin4 was also having his fifth birthday on Saturday, Miss8 and Master6 slept over at his home Friday night, meaning we had to drive out to their property to bring Miss8 back into town for her friend's party. This meant, because things are all a bit cloudy and unorganized at the moment, we were a bit late (nearly an hour?). I apologized.
"That's alright," said the mother, greeting me at the door at 11.30am with a rum in her hand. "We ain't started yet. I know the invite says we'll finish at 12.30 but you can leave her till one, or one-thirty, or two if you like."
Now I'm not saying I've never had a beer at my kids' party. In fact, it might be closer to the truth to say I've never not had a beer at my kids' party. But in the am? Plus there's usually other more responsible parents, like Tracey, in the vicinity.
"I'll be here at 12.30," I assured her. I would have stayed except I'd left Tracey and the other kids back at the property and I really needed to go get them.
When we arrived to pick Miss8 up, though, there was a problem.
"We ain't had the cake yet," the birthday girl's mother told us. "Come back in half an hour."
I dropped the family home and went back down.
"They're round 'ere somewhere," the woman assured me. She turned to her other daughter. "Are the girls out the back yard?"
"No," the older sibling said, pointing over my shoulder: that is to say, in the exact opposite direction of the back yard. "They've gone for a walk."
I spotted them a hundred meters down the road. The four young girls were hardly hidden, the way they were hogging the center of the road as they laughed and meandered away from the house.
"Just drive down and pick 'er up," suggested the woman.
I opted to bellow my daughters name instead: so furious I couldn't even turn to face the woman who had let my daughter wander off down the street while she was in charge. Not only let her wander off, but had no idea the kids were even missing.
When I later asked Miss8 where they were going she told me to the park around the corner. That would be the park, I might add, which has been featuring fairly heavily in the local rag for a recent suspected abduction attempt of a twelve year old boy.
Once she was back at the house, and having grabbed her shoes and lolly bag, Miss8 raced out of the house full to bursting with excitement.
"I can sleep over tonight!" she exclaimed.
Let me assure you, this was not one of those times when it was difficult to say no.