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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GROWING PAINS: Mom's Wardrobe Agony As Party Season Strikes

Holidays are all good and well but it was with a certain sigh of relief that I sent the kids back to school this week and returned to the relative calm of work and deadlines.

At the end of last year I successfully crossed the first hurdle of school New Year's prazdniki, a mixture of a party and a pantomime ("make me these three costumes before next Tuesday, mommy"), which are always a bit of a trial for me because of the parents' dress code. Back in England we moms turned up in casual shirts and jeans for school parties - people would have freaked out if I'd turned up in a designer suit and three inch heels for the occasion - but here, it's just the opposite.

"Mom, you will wear a dress to my prazdnik this year," pleaded my 10-year-old Sasha, perhaps remembering the mortifying occasion when I swept in one year in Doc Martins and a baggy sweater to greet an astonished room full of beautifully primped and perfumed moms.

"It's okay when the kids are young," moaned a friend of mine. "But once they get to fifth grade these prazdniki are like awaiting the final Judgment Day. My daughter had me standing in front of the wardrobe mirror trying on all my dresses until she found one she was happy with. It's a nightmare."

This year I did Sasha proud in slit skirt and stilettos, but with school over, we then had all the excitement of the yolka (fir tree) Christmas parties organized by pioneer palaces and culture centers. Parents are supposed to release their offspring into this huge cauldron of children and then come and pick them up three hours later. But having heard how a friend had come back for her 4-year-old (!) only to find him tucked away in the snake house, I insisted on accompanying my small son, Bobby.

He loved the lively theater show, but the "playroom," which was filled with toys, turned out to be an exquisitely Russian form of torture because half the toys were only for show. He was shooed angrily off the rocking horse and yelled at for touching a toy plane so we gingerly played with some Lego then slunk out.

All of our yolki included a competition to find out which children could recite a classical poem after hearing only the first line - which was seriously impressive. But then the superior cultural level of Russian children never ceases to astonish me. At the two Christmas parties we went to at friends' apartments, the children all took turns standing up and reciting poetry. All my two girls could manage was a bawdy version of the Russian Christmas classic "A Fir Tree Was Born in the Woods."

Even our Sports School New Year's bash had the same sensational round of classical recitals, which finished with 6-year-old Dima: "I am now going to sing the opera 'Ruslan and Lyudmila,'" he said, clambering onto a chair. When I gasped, he added reassuringly: "Excerpts."