Mama Said by Emily Martin
With a 6-year-old's hopes and dreams depending on her, Emily Martin has a birthday party to organise
I'm a bit miserable about birthdays. I mean, I don't really get the reason why we celebrate each other's birthdays. Yes, well done, you're still alive just like everyone else. Why do I have to buy you a present for this? I feel the same about other people’s wedding anniversaries and don't even get me started on hen parties.
But I realise this maverick stance on birthdays is unacceptable when it comes to children, so for them I try to rev myself up massively and get MEGA into birthdays. "It's your BIRTHDAY in THIRTY SIX DAYS! WOW! What do you want to DO? What presents do you WANT?" Oh dear, I feel very tired.
For my daughter's first birthday, I pretty much got away with ignoring it completely. Oh come on, she was ONE. I think I went out for sushi, had some prosecco and bought myself a bracelet just really to celebrate surviving what I refer to as “the year of the bad shock”.
Aged 2 and I had a great idea to just invite people I knew with kids to join us at the local park. I bought a cake and tied a balloon to the slide. What? It was absolutely fine.
Aged 3, I can't remember. 4… Hmmm, nope it's a blur. I think Boy was born that year. And for 5 we went out for a curry. And yes of course she came with us. But 6 is coming up and she's at school now with actual friends so I know a curry and a free trip up the park will no longer cut it.
We’ve been to many, MANY high-decibel parties on Saturdays at the community centre so she's used to a certain level. To be honest, since she started school it's been nothing but parties at the community centre where the format goes like this:
Push open the double doors and release the children into the room. Oh no, you can't go home... Oh poor you, did you think it was a drop-off party? Oh dear no, you have to lean against a radiator and watch for two hours.
Then there's always a focal point like a disco (actually I enjoyed that one), sometimes a magician, often a woman in a bat mask who does crafts. Superheroes are big. So are princesses.
The entertainer controls the kids for an hour and then it's a break for food which is bowls of grapes and carrots, sandwiches and sausages. The parents are desperate to eat the sausages. DESPERATE.
We hover around the kids going, "Darling, carrot? Sandwich? Some grapes? Cup of squash? Come on have a few grapes". Not a single jam sandwich ever gets eaten by anyone. And I always extremely want a sausage so much at this point, but taking one is very frowned upon.
Then it's back to the entertainment for another hou,r including a chorus of "Happy Birthday to yoooou", party bags, and off we go home with sulky faced kids who don’t want to leave.
Some mums I've overheard in the playground seem to do more high-risk parties like swimming, and... only whisper it... sleepovers.
Remember going to sleepover parties and playing that game where you had to wear a hat and scarf and cut up a Yorkie bar with a knife and fork? (What was that game?) Then bundling in the living room watching some movie like Ghostbusters, getting pizza grease on your sleeping bag and someone starting to cry because they wanted to go to sleep and everyone kept giggling. Actually, that was usually me, but I don’t think that’s got anything to do with why I don't like birthdays...
I’m glad Girl has made friends at school, but it would have been easier if she'd stayed best friends with me for a few more years. I mean, I'm so fun, right?
Don’t worry, I’ve hired the community centre, invited the whole class and we’re having a disco (with extra sausages for parents).