Birthday Party

Have you ever had the privilege of attending a 4 year old’s birthday party? I have. MANY TIMES. Magic shows, clowns, bouncy castle, face painting, pottery corner(no, no, I mean pottery with clay, not pot), popcorn machines, cotton candy machines, balloons, screaming, squealing, shouting, and of course cake. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? Well, it is. I don’t remember a single instance when I haven’t dealt with an itchy, tired, irritated child after coming home from the party. It just so happens, just like with many children I am sure, that mine can’t handle sugar. There’s the sugar high, then there’s the itchiness, then there’s the sugar low, then there’s the running around and pretend-play and the final crash and burn. By this time, it’s midnight and any plans of watching an episode of Downton Abbey while munching popcorn go out the window. Instead, a Valium or swigs of vodka are needed.

What happens when the party is in your backyard? You’re going to have a whole bunch of sugar-raged monsters, you’re going to need a whole bottle of vodka and it’s still going to be a circus after all. Why do we need these birthday parties? The parents are always seen running like a volcano is about to erupt, with plastic smiles and the uproariously fake “Hahaha”, the birthday boy/girl is always left in the lurch, pouting, crying and whining because other children are in his/her backyard playing with his/her things, the meticulous cake is always smashed to an unrecognizable mass and the other parents are always heard bitc**** about how they would’ve done so much better. (Just for record, I don’t indulge in the bitch****, I just eat).

Then there’s the gift-giving gambit. It has to be bought in advance, carefully wrapped and shouldn’t be a re-gift or exceed the value of the relationship of your child with theirs. I still don’t understand what is an appropriate value. So I pretty much give away goodie baskets with whatever I can lay my hands on. It usually looks like a very last-minute, futile effort, compared to the gargantuan colorfully wrapped boxes that people bring, but I’m happy the hosts are polite enough to not smirk. Then there’s the party-favours that the children go wild over. A Made-in-China Rubik’s cube, a Made-in-China Kaleidoscope, a Made-in-China smiley ball or if it’s a big-ticket party, there’s something worthwhile like a huge case of Hot Wheels. Add to that the sugar-rush and the bedtime is moved to midnight. Oh what a joyous occasion!

Each year has to be better than the previous year, not just that; each child’s party has to be better than the others’. If he’s got a clown, she’s to have a princess castle; if he’s got pony rides. he’s got to have a magician, if she’s giving away trips to Disneyland, he’s got to give away helicopters, it only gets bigger and bigger. Meanwhile, the bankrupt parents dread as soon as there is a colourful invite proclaiming their child is INVITED TO A BIRTHDAY PARTY!! There’s different themes children want nowadays. Some want princes and princesses, some want dragons and dinosaurs, some want witches and wizards and some very creative ones want pink and blue hair-do rainbow parties. Extravagance? I think not; we are only watering the child’s creativity!

My child, finally, has got the hang of birthday parties. He’s asked for a cake entirely made of cherries, everyone sings for him and claps and gives him one car (Hot Wheels) each. He is not going to give the cherry cake to anyone who doesn’t sing. Car is not mandatory. And he wants to give away money as party favours. Because money buys cars and you can give to the doctor as well. And everyone has to wear red, because that’s his favourite colour at the moment. He doesn’t want any face-painters, because it itches after. He doesn’t want any magicians, because they pull his nose while conjuring a coin from there, he doesn’t want a bouncy castle, he knows kids throw up while bouncing, he doesn’t want a pool-party, because he knows not everyone can swim. He doesn’t want to celebrate in a restaurant because “How will the children get there?”. Obviously, my genes didn’t do a lot of passing on. 🙂

Without going into the philosophical bend of things, I’m going to keep it simple. Birthday parties are fun, no, really, they are. Even for the hosts. I like them for the food. I wish I could just sit next to the food-laden tables and eat, without being frowned upon. I hear as the children get older, they want to spend their birthdays alone, with their friends, or boyfriends and girlfriends. As parents, are we to fund those too? I hope not. Who knows what kind of party favours and party drinks they’d enjoy in the future. By the looks of things, it could very well be a marijuana+kale+spinach punch, a chia+wild beet+avocado chip and red ants+horseradish+truffle dip. Oxygen Bars, Flying Limousines, partying with the Martians. The world changes, and we change with it. Birthday parties are no longer what they used to be, said our old folks, we say the same and the children would say the same. In the words of a wise man,

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.
– Bob Dylan, who else!