Whatever you are told is the cost of the average children’s birthday party – £500, £50,000 – you better believe it. Things can get out of hand but you’re missing the point of what a birthday is for and why we celebrate.
I’m writing this as I sit in the dining room, waiting for a chocolate sponge cake to cool down before I move to the tricky act of slicing, filling and finishing. The joys of home baking and doing something with your hands and in your own home for people that you love is just great. All too often, when birthdays or celebrations come around we saunter down the baked good isle of the supermarket to pick up an invertebrate themed sugar, fat and chocolate laden monstrosity. To have the time to bake is a luxury, albeit one which is paid for by my own unemployed / between projects status.
Birthdays are special days, a day just for you. “It’s my birthday and I can do what I like” is a mentality of many but since becoming a family man, I realise now that it’s more than just a celebration of the individual; it’s also a thank you to the Lady that gave birth to the child and a recognition that (despite our own flaws and foibles) we all contribute to the family and together we are stronger than if we were apart. The kids were both born in October, so this is a sort of birthday season for us. Along with Hallowe’en; it’s something to make the darkening days a bit brighter.
The kids turn 2 & 4, which is a good age since they are immune from the barrage of advertising that is associated with children’s entertainment that’ll come. We don’t own a TV and screen time is very low but it’ll come at some point (probably along with school for the Master next year). In an age of abundance; where children do without nothing, it’s hard to imagine what you could afford to buy for your kids that makes up for the time you traded to be away from them.
Children’s Birthday Parties
Luckily the dilemma of whether we have a family only birthday party of a larger once with lots of guests was taken away from us by lockdown restrictions in Scotland. We could have gone to great effort and expense to host maybe 20 kids at home (plus parents) or hired a venue for less effort but more expense. Pull it off and we would be highly popular!
We went to a friend’s daughter’s three year birthday party last year. This was in an affluent town near us an the local seafront community hall had been hired for the expected 40 children attendees. The kids were mostly from the local nursery that the girl attended and we were invited as non-nursery friends. What struck me immediately about the party was how little the parents interacted with each other. The kids just went about being kids and the bouncy castle and toys were a real hit. The parents on the other hand were a disappointment; they sat on chairs against the walls, spread-out and with heads stuck in their phones. Neglecting both their kids and what I would call common decency and friendliness. Remember that this was pre-Covid when you could actually come within 2m of a stranger and even make small talk. These were parents that presumably either lived locally, sent their kids to nursery locally or knew the birthday girl or mother and despite this, they had no interest in interacting with strangers, acquaintances or even the host (who was overwhelmed by the massive scale of managing the event almost single handed). What would be the point of holding something like that I wonder? Maybe you feel that it’s something you need to do. Maybe it’s what everyone does (and we’ve just not been invited). Whatever it is, it feels a bit like an early example of keeping up with the Joneses. The pressure to have the perfect day for children who are either undeserving, ungrateful or unaware must be immense for some parents. Luckily, we don’t want this for our kids. It’s not just about being tight-fisted; yes, I don’t like spending money but I also don’t see the point and trying to impress people who would rather look at their phones is not high on my list of priorities.
A Gentleman’s Family Birthday Party
Since the Master is turning 4, I’ve baked him a cake and we’ve got a few presents lined up for him. What he really wanted was a “James” Brio train track train. He’s obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine and for a modest price, we found him one on eBay. It’s not flashy or expensive but we know he’ll love it. He was sick this week on Monday morning and was off nursery for 48 hours (as per government guidelines) and I spent the two days with him (a benefit of having optional employment) and children respond better to that than to all the presents you can buy. If we had been able to do it; we would have loved to take a holiday in London for the kids’ birthdays. They love museums and the excitement of big city tourism. The wonder of taking a train or tube or buses, staying in a hotel. Of new places and faces and the sheer unpredictability of it all – (with every step carefully planned by my wonderful wife of course). We can’t do that now of course. What you can do and we will do is make their birthday special to them and make them feel cared for, protected and loved in the family; all of which are free.