I remember when birthday parties had a set, reliable formula. You play pass the parcel, you possibly pin the tail on the donkey, you have party food and you go home with a token party bag. Note: party bags contain a balloon, a squashed piece of cake, a party blower and perhaps another small trinket. That’s it. Job done, thank you very much, see you again same time same place next year.
What was so wrong with that? Nothing. But now I’m a cynical grown up it seems that the parties my parents hosted are no longer acceptable in terms of REALLY celebrating a child’s birthday. I should know, I’m guilty of it myself.
My daughter regularly brings home invitations to parties and some months we are attending one or two every weekend. But they’re not really parties!
Inviting a bunch of kids to batle it out at the local soft play centre does not constitute a party. Taking home a child with sweat on her brow and carpet burns on her knees is not fun- they just want MORE. This year we have been to a party at the Reebok stadium and we’re due to go to another there- a cheerleading party this time. We’ve been to cinema parties and go-karting parties and I even heard of a friend’s daughter being invited to a fancing party. Fencing! The ideal way to celebrate a 7th birthday…!
My sister in law’s daughter last year attended a party which required her to be driven about in a limousine sipping fizzy pop from plastic champagne flutes. We’ve attended parties at farms and parties at bowling alleys. We’ve been there, done it.
So this year we hosted parties at home. We had party food, games and good old fashioned conversations. We let the children play in the garden- it’s free!- and we sent home party bags full of goodies. A number of parents actually stopped me at school to say that thier child had really enjoyed the party and wanted one like that themsleves. Victory! Yes, its stressful, yes its a lot of work but I’m a teacher and I’m kind of used to it. And the end of the day, its a PARTY and while it didn’t win any award for originality, it was still fun!!!
Here is my darling boy’s party food spread- and yes, the cake is home made and it took blummin ages to make!!!
My daughter came out of school today with a present from Santa, all wrapped nicely with a gaudy bow on the top. HE had visited to hear the children sing Jingle Bells, apparently. Throughout the short journey through the mountainous snow back to the car, my daughter proceeded to ask me no less than 3 million times if she could open her present as soon as she got home. I replied that no, she couldn’t- she could wait until Christmas. Until I cracked and thought- to hell with it, live a little. We opened the present as soon as we were back at the car with the baby safely strapped in and the heater blaring. I’m that kind of mummy, today at least.
Today I have lived for the moment and I suppose I have allowed my daughter the same privilege. There are are some mums who collect their children with neatly styled hair and impossibly clean jeans, their children always ever-so neatly turned out and polite. Not that my daughter is rude, she is just sometimes a little scruffy, that’s all. Anyway, I get the impression that those mums will not have given in so easily to demands for early presents. I bet those mums will take their perfectly painted toe-nails straight back home and place their child’s gift carefully under the tree so that on Christmas morning they may exclaim, ‘Oh, look Jonty! It’s that quaint little gift that Santa brought to school! Oh, do open, do open!’ Or maybe not. The point is, I suppose that today i have chosen to choose my battles. And when faced with an early glimpse of the excitement that is Christmas, hell- I would want to open my gift early too!
So, fess up. What type of mum are you today? Will you let them open the gift, or will you make them wait? Did I tell you I’m off to buy a new hoover tomorrow? I simply cannot wait.
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Last week was a difficult week for many reasons, namely the fact that I found myself in a solitary position for many an important occasion and feeling a little like a single parent. Not for one minute would I like to even attempt to claim that I know how it feels to be a single parent because I don’t and I know that I am very lucky to have an occasionally absent husband. It’s just that when he is absent, I feel it like a truck has hit the house, scattered clean and dirty washing all the over the spare room, emptied the toys over the living room floor and turned my kids into non-eating, non-sleeping machines of terror.
Last week I tackled a nativity performance, a hospital appointment, a late train, two works dos and one football training session. It’s a lot in one week, I think. My the time the baby was throwing up on Thursday night I found myself asking P whose turn it was to take time off work to care for him. It was his!
Venturing out to work on limited sleep is never easy but when you have left the shackles of domesticity behind- and a puking baby- it is certainly a little easier to bear. I felt I deserved to go out to work and leave a little of my responsibilities with P- after all, he had been absent for so much this week. It got me thinking though, have I any right to feel so angry when my husband is not home to share in the care of our children? Perhaps I did, but what about the millions of single mummies who do exactly the same, EVERY day without the option of going to work when the baby is sick, knowing they are in good hands with Daddy?
Wow. Being a single mummy is not easy. My own sister did it for nearly ten years, on the other side of the world and with only limited support from back home- we did what we could but Sydney is a long way away. at the end of it all I have nothing but respect for the mums- and dads- who go it alone for their kids. My own mum was on her own with three of us for a period, my step-dad on his own with one.
I hope it never happens to me; I’ve come to realise just how much I rely on P. Although, I do hope that he has finished gallivanting about for one year. Its nice when his dinner doesn’t get burnt.
Did I mention that my son does not sleep well? My husband and I have a pretty reliable system to cope with this, originally constructed when our daughter was born and maintained well ever since. We’ve adapted it since I returned to work full-time after E was born but now only work two days. So, I do the night shift Mondays and Tuesdays, he does Wednesday night, then I’m back on for Thursday and Friday while he does Saturday night. Last night, however, we were both grim-faced and bleary-eyed as some kind of tummy-ache demon seemed to have taken our baby at 2am and by 4am he was still screaming the house down!
We became a little desperate as all of our usual tricks seemed to be failing. He didn’t want a bottle, he didn’t want to be cuddled, he didn’t want to sit down, stand up or lie in his cot. No stroking my head mum, keep away from me!!! At four thirty I sent P to bed, thinking if he was up any longer I would not get my lie in- I’d been looking forward to that all week!
Refusing to keep still or stop screaming, I sat with my son on the sofa and turned on the television. Usually he is so tired that he doesn’t mind me watching Masterchef Australia while he dozes but that’s finished now and so I had to flick… and I landed on Baby TV. Wow.
These guys really know what they’re doing. Just as we watched the Teletubbies nad though WTF?? Baby TV at that time is nothing more than shapes and patterns and it feels as though you’re watching a huge lava lamp. I pointed this out to L and immediately he stopped screaming. I invited his little warm body onto my lap and he sat, pointing at the screen. After a moment he was fast asleep and by 5am I was back in bed myself.
This morning I eagerly told P all about the power of Baby TV and it got me thinking about the amount of research that must have gone into those simple shapes. Those who market stuff for babies- on the whole- really seem to know what they’re doing. I just hope it works again tonight. Yawn.