"Bring the children"

Bring the children. These are words on an invitation which can fill a parent's heart with joy, panic or sorrow.

Joy because it means you don't have to pluck up the courage to ask your relative to babysit for free again after the debacle of the works do when you rolled in drunk, rowdy and worst of all, later than the time you had promised you'd be back. And you forgot to adjust the heating so it's been freezing for an hour. She's sitting in her coat and not looking happy.

Or joy because you don't have to pay the neighbour's kid the price of good seats at the opera for watching your TV, eating your posh chocolate and abusing your internet just so there's a "responsible adult" in the house.

At least they are not running up your phone bill - apologies now to the people I used to sit for when I was a teenager and mobile phones were rare and certainly not owned by children.

The phrase "bring the children" can also bring a modicum of sorrow. If there are going to be children around it is unlikely to be the sort of night you look back on in your dotage as evidence that you were still wild party animals as well as parents. Well, not in my experience anyway.

Even if the children are put to bed you are generally anticipating a gentle evening of food, laughter and conversation- lovely but more proof that you are properly middle aged. It's highly unlikely people will be making out in the kitchen and the lights will probably stay on.

There may be cider but it'll be that posh fruit-flavoured stuff not the giant plastic bottles of vomit-scented liquid you bought illegally from the corner shop. I say vomit scented because every time I drank it in my teens I was sick and now I can't separate the two odours.

The most recent time I saw the phrase "bring the children" it sent me into a bit of a panic. I really, really wanted to go to the event but started to wonder -what constitutes a child?

Apart from the fact that if I took all of my children there would be more children than adults, some of my children are frankly a bit old to be called children. So what's the cut off point?

Usually if we take any children (our teens generally act as live-in babysitters) we take those who are friends with the children whose parents are hosting. On this occasion that would probably mean Grumpy and DD#2 would get to stay up late.

But we have our eldest and his GF staying on a short visit from Portmsouth.

He's 21, technically still my child but I'm guessing he won't want to play with Lego in my friend's playroom while we scoff curry. (although thinking about it.....)

I don't want to miss out on what promises to be a fun night out with friends and I don't want to go out and leave them at home but I'm effectively asking to bring another two adults to the event.

Luckily our very lovely friends were happy for him to come along and join us at the grown-up's table. Well, they are polite enough to pretend they were happy which is good enough.

My eldest and his GF are both past that awkward teenage stage where they sit at the table with their coat on/hood up/scowl fixed.  They are both perfectly able to contribute to an adult conversation. Occasionally my son can be inappropriate but my friends are used to that from me so it shouldn't be a problem.

So on this occasion I will be taking a selection of children, including my eldest, and hoping that we haven't crossed some boundary and earned ourself removal from any future guest list.