I know I say this quite often but I cannot believe where time is going. It's just slipping away at the moment, and I've been neglecting my blog, and the people I love to follow too. Hopefully from this week I can be a bit more organised and rectify that but it's just finding the time. I'm sure everyone is in the same boat. The rest of the year shows no sign of being any less busy for me either, I really need to relish January to April more! Next year, if anyone hears me complaining about how boring it is, during the first quarter of the year, send me a link to this post, please?
Well - my birthday party went amazingly. Apparently. Great night, the food was wonderful. All I remember is people arriving, dishing them up and then - it seemed to me - everyone left. This wasn't the case, but that's how it felt because I was a bit harassed (that's what I'm calling tipsy from now on - harassed!). Nobody took any photographs and I'm a bit peeved at that, because I've thought long and hard about it since, the evening isn't something I'm planning on replicating again! It was too much, far, far too much. There will be one more big party at the house (more on that later), and then - any gatherings here will have to be more intimate, with the exception of a barbecue, where everyone can bring something and just tuck in. I had 19 people around for a two course meal on my birthday. That was bare minimum. That was my immediate family and closest friends, that was the minimum amount of people there, without offending anyone. Thankfully they were all people I wanted there anyway. It would have been nice to have been able to ask some other friends but I wouldn't have had the room.
So, now all that nonsense is all over, my birthday lists have been shredded and recycled. I'm a list woman. I like working on lists. I have a to-do list that never ends, and I function like that - because no matter how small the item on the list is, just seeing something crossed out spurs me on to complete another task. I also like to plan ahead. To an extent I believe in living for today - it's true that we don't know what will happen tomorrow, but I'll take the risk that I'll still be breathing rather than risk the wrath of four children with poor or zero birthday celebrations or no activities planned for the summer holiday.
We'll start there, shall we? Birthdays. Four children with birthdays between 28th July and 28th September. Two months precisely. I never ever get it quite right. Adam is first, and his birthday is just after school closes for the summer. Which means I have to organise the party and invite people weeks before school finishes. Which means half of the invitees forget as I don't have the school yard to remind them, and are no-shows (which is a real bug bear for me!). Caitlin is slap bang in the middle of the summer holiday so a lot of her friends are away on holiday. Ryan's birthday is a week after school starts back, where everyone is so frazzled after preparing for school, and I have literally that first four days of school to book somewhere, invite people and collate the replies - and then Daniel - who hasn't needed much of a fuss for a few years now, is turning 18. When I was a kid... yes I know, but - when I was a kid, a birthday party was a cake from the local bakery, four or five friends home after school for tea, sandwiches, fairy cakes, jelly and ice cream, slice of cake, hour or so to play and that was it.
Nowadays, if you did that for a child you'd be the worst, most boring, uninspirational parent ever. Now, it's bigger, better, more imaginative and - of course - more expensive than everyone elses. So, for the last few years, I've taken the easy options, hired a local leisure centre and taken the buffet, or taken the kids to a soft play area and they've had hot food there. Caitlin's plans fell through the last two birthdays, Ryan's last one did... this will be Caitlin's last 'child' birthday party and Daniel turns 18 and wants a party at home. Nothing wild (she says... trying to recall a house party here that hasn't been wild...) but we can't hire anywhere because venues don't cater for 18th parties that much as - like in Dan's case - his friends will only be 16/17 and not legally allowed to drink on licensed premises. So, I have one more big bash at home before I hang up my SuperHostess cape for good. So my mind is very much on birthdays - still. Can't escape them until the end of September, where I then have to start thinking about Christmas.
I am very individual, and practical, I don't do things because other people do, I don't need to 'Keep up with the Jones's', whether I have the financial means to do so or not. I do what I can, that suits me and my family, within my means. However - when it comes to kids and birthdays, I feel their peer-pain. I really do. Because jelly and ice cream isn't enough nowadays. We've ruined it for ourselves, by taking something that was so simple as a couple of friends around the table and some cupcakes, and blown it all out of proportion. Even the simple 'Party Bag' - which used to be a slice of cake and a balloon and a small plastic yoyo or flute - now are so elaborate they can cost as much as the party itself. I can put my foot down and refuse the latest XBox game, or the pair of trainers that cost £40 more just because of the brand name. I have no qualms about doing that. My children know not to ask. It's how they've been raised. We don't have the money to do it. But birthdays are different, that's the one day that's unique and individual to them. Christmas is shared. A birthday is theirs alone. Refusing to bow to parent-made peer pressure, when it's the kids who bear the brunt of the disappointment amongst their friends? I can't/won't do that.
How do you feel about birthday parties? Bane of your life, or blessing? Do you feel the pressure to compete in something parent-made, but which impacts emotionally on the children concerned? Or do you point blank refuse to? I'd really love to hear your thoughts, and ideas on this matter. I'm off to look up dinosaur themes... (the latest obsession!) because trust me, the way these days are flying - it will be upon me soon enough!