Written by Daisy Leverington

Lifestyle

Motherhood: Partying with children and animals

Motherhood hasn’t come naturally to Daisy Leverington. Three-and-a-bit years in and she remains wide-eyed, terrified and in awe of the little person she’s responsible for. This week she reports back from the frontline of an animal-friendly birthday party.

chameleon sitting on a girl's headAn albino hedgehog curls out a huge turd onto my daughter’s leg. She tries to shimmy backwards, away from the encroaching dark green dump. The hedgehog falls; time slows as 12 adults dive to catch it. They clash heads, drinks are spilled, the birthday girl’s first tear drops down a fallen cheek.

The zookeeper dives under the hedgehog holding a fleece blanket like a fireman saving a baby from a burning building. A chameleon turns a single eye to take in the unfolding drama, but doesn’t move from its perch on a small boy’s head.

The little hedgehog lands softly, his shit landing gently next to him moments later. Everyone applauds. Backs are patted, hugs are exchanged. It’s time to get the meerkat out.

Last weekend our lovely neighbours held an ‘animal’ party for their daughter’s seventh birthday, and although it wasn’t as fun as the animal parties I went to in Kentish Town Sauna back in 2006, I agreed to take our kid. She just loves holding their delicate bones so very tightly.

We arrived to a flurry of lovely mums and their kids armed with presents. Thankfully I’d worn my disguise so I blended right in. Deck shoes and a Cath Kidston bag make me feel comfortable in the most middle-class of situations, and I’d read up on the news so was proper ready for any conversations anyone might try to engage me in.

Everything about me was screaming ‘good mother’, even if my kid was already running around in her pants, celebrating stealing the birthday girl’s headband.

A camouflage print mat was laid on the floor for the kids to sit around. “How can you all see it?” I quipped, to a room of silent, confused faces. Flashes of my brief standup career made me retreat to the kitchen, where I found a tarantula in a Tupperware box and swivelled right back to the party.

“Next came an apparently ‘descented’ skunk… and then came a chameleon which disappointed every child who had ever watched Tangled as it didn’t change colour at all.”

My child was missing (a frequent and alarming part of her personality) so I headed towards the noise in another room and found her face to face with a barn owl, still just in her knickers. I dressed her and tried to pass it off as a one-time-only thing to the other parents, and we sat down around the mat for the animal squeezing.

A meerkat was brought out. AN ACTUAL MEERKAT. Have you ever seen a parent elbow their toddler out of the way to stroke a meerkat? I pushed past her so hard the headband fell off, and was quickly retrieved by the birthday girl.

stroking an albino hedgehogThe meerkat was the best thing I have ever seen with my actual eyes. It ate live meal worms and let out little chuntering noises which made me broody for a baby meerkat, and I loved it. I think the child enjoyed it too. I couldn’t be sure, though, as I wasn’t paying attention.

Next came an apparently ‘descented’ skunk. They passed round a tub with its scent glands in. Which was the worst thing I’ve ever seen with my actual eyes. Then came a chameleon which disappointed every child who had ever watched Tangled as it didn’t change colour at all. BORING.

The boa constrictor was great until it squeezed one boy’s arm a little too hard and everyone was too scared to hold it afterwards.

The pinnacle of the show was the massive tarantula from the kitchen. I hadn’t seen it appear until it was about an inch from my leg and found that by Christ, I can jump high when I need to.

I’d prepped my husband to hold it with our daughter as I don’t want her to inherit my phobia, but don’t want to deal with it either.

The spider managed to get itself wedged under some kid’s Ben 10 watch. The kid panicked so much it yanked its arm away from the zookeeper and the puppy-sized bastard (spider, not kid) flew through the air towards me and another mum. Again, time slowed.

“Everything about me was screaming ‘good mother’, even if my kid was already running around in her pants, celebrating stealing the birthday girl’s headband.”

She let out the most demure of screams as I shoved her into its trajectory. It fell short of actually hitting us, but that was the end of the animals for the day and the cake was swiftly produced to quell the terror. It truly was a day of extremes.

I’ve decided I want an animal party for my 40th, but just with meerkats. A meerkat party, if you will. Who’s coming?

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Written by Daisy Leverington

Daisy Leverington - Actor, mother, expert at winging it.