I know, I know. Itís only the fourth week of the new year and already here I am about to break one of those promises I made to you about growing old gracefully. However, Iím not totally sure this is about getting older, so much as itís about etiquette.

The Big Guy and I attended a birthday party for a 1-year-old over the weekend.

I knew from the day the invitation arrived in the mail that it was going to be a mistake for us to go ó or for me to go anyway; the Big Guy is a lot more tolerant than I am these days.

As I suspected, the parents of the birthday girl invited a whole passel of their 20-something friends, who have all spawned at least one child of their own but sometimes two or three; in other words, the place was knee deep in toddlers and crawlers. Fifty percent of them had runny noses.

Iíll skip the reminder about this being the cold and flu season where large crowds of people are to be avoided and skip right to the adults in the house who must have decoded the invitation and thought a birthday party from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. meant they got two hours off child duty.

At any given moment, these parents could be observed watching a football game on TV, text messaging, checking their email, gabbing on the phone with someone in the state who didnít get invited to the party, or curled up in a corner of a couch taking a power nap ó anything except watching their children. Oddly, my normally paralyzing death stare, perfected by many years of parenting, rendered them all unaffected.

The birthday girl woke from her nap to find her once-quiet, peaceful home had been invaded by mostly strangers and protested in the only way a 1-year-old knows how: by burying her face in her momís shoulder and sobbing.

She was uninterested in opening her presents ó which had to be done in shifts ó and was a head-to-toe sweet confectionery mess after being given not a piece of cake but an entire cake as part of her celebration.

Being largely unsupervised, the other children assumed face-in-the-cake style eating looked fun, so most of them were just as sticky as their little hostess by the time their cake was gone.

Meanwhile, sticky, cake-crumb-laden hands and faces were being wiped on upholstered furniture, shirt sleeves and unsuspecting adult pant legs.

Iím afraid I wasnít a very good guest; we didnít stay to help clean up the mess, nor did we stay to sit through another round of gift opening. Which brings me to the question: Who thought it would be fun for a bunch of little kids to sit around and watch another kid open all the presents? Seriously, think about it. Itís just a little bit sadistic.

So there you have it: the birthday party from hell.

Perhaps thatís why God generally gives children only to young adults who arenít set in their ways and donít get freaked out by snot bubbles and hot pink cake frosting on winter white upholstery.

Iíve never claimed to be Emily Post, but I did eat a small piece of cake with a fork, made sure my plate made it all the way to the trash can and I only used my waterless hand sanitizer four times while we were there ó discreetly of course.

Linda Brown is marketing director for The Ottawa Herald. E-mail her at lbrown@ottawaherald.com