Do you remember your past birthdays, way back in the day when you didn’t need to use three sets of hands to indicate your age, but one hand was enough? I am trying to remember my younger-years birthdays and all that comes to mind is the simplicity of it all. I remember my mother baking me an almond and vanilla cake, taking it to pre-school with me and cutting it and sharing it with my friends. In the evening I’d have another smaller cake waiting for me, and I’d cut it up after dinner with my family. Any leftover cake would be handed out to the grandparents who couldn’t make it to the grand ceremony. As for presents, I would normally receive one from my parents and a monetary gift from my grandparents. My close friends would hand-make me a card – in fact I still have some from the 80s back at my mother’s home! With the little I had going on on my birthday then, I was so happy and content.
Everything was uncomplicated and simple. There were no frills and no hassle about the whole thing. As I grew older my parents used to invite my cousins over and they’d help cut and consume the cake and the presents would grow in number, but there was still a relaxed attitude about it all. It didn’t matter if the cake didn’t rise properly or if the pizza came out a bit burnt in the edges. It was just an excuse to meet up and play with my cousins and close friends, and there was nothing more to it than that.
Nowadays everything seems to have grown into an exponential materialistic affair, and I think the whole thing is in dire risk of exploding into a million shreds. Children’s birthday parties have become the next big thing when it comes to satisfying out inner materialistic ego. Very few families I know celebrate children’s birthday parties with a low-key affair. The majority of parties are planned and executed with a scary precision. Whatever happened to spontaneity and going with the moment?
Cesca will turn two in less than a week, and I’m currently planning her second birthday party. As with her first birthday party, only immediate family will come celebrate with us because the way we reasoned things out, she is still a baby. She won’t care if there are fifty or ten people coming over to sing her ‘Happy Birthday’. In reality, she won’t know that anything’s different than usual apart from the fact that she’ll get a few extra gifts on the day and she’ll be at the receiving end of more-than-usual attention. Any party planning I do is mainly for my own selfish reasons. I love having a theme and working around it. I purchase the party apparel and I plan things out way in advance, although not as early as I did last year. I get unnaturally excited setting things up and I try to involve a nonchalant Cesca into the whole affair. But like I said, Cesca does not really care about any of this. Just give the girl some extra attention and you’re her best friend.
For the time being, we are keeping things as low-key as we can. We’re lucky that we still can. Though the tempation is there and will increase with each passing year. Because if we’re really honest, who doesn’t enjoy planning a party and becoming overly involved in it all? For that is the lure of birthday planning. Each year you can hold a different themed-party. One year it can be Micky Mouse, then it can be some princess or some TV show, and of course these days you find everything you need for the party in exactly the precise theme you choose. All you need is some time to choose a theme and a purse full of cash. Or plastic.
Because apart from the decorations, the older the children get the more elaborate the whole party setting becomes. You barely go to a birthday party nowawadays and see the children spend an entire party play or draw round a big table. Oh no. These days there are animators, bouncing castles, elaborate settings, face-painters, the whole lot! Do you think that children these days would be satisfied with some finger food, a cake and some pencils and paper to draw at a birthday party? Most definitely not! The children would get bored stiff, the birthday boy would end up being teased about his plain party and the poor parents would end up being snubbed and talked about for their choices. Peer pressure starts at a very early age it seems.
I know I will most definitely try fighting off the parenthood peer-pressure bug. I see it so much nowadays. I see young children dressed up like mini-adults. I see teenage girls wobbling around on heels so high, I’m always scared they’ll fall flat on their face before my very eyes. I then notice they’re wearing a full face of creams and make-up and I worry for their break-outs. But it seems before all this, before they even know it, before their own parents maybe realize it, life with children becomes dictated by peer pressure. It’s then life as a teenager, as a grown-up and eventually our whole life.
But kid myself as much as I want to, I know that I will most probably end up organizing an overly-planned birthday party someday in the future. And as much as Cesca and the other children will enjoy it, a small part of me will be screaming ‘coward’ the whole way through for not having chosen the simple way of doing things.
*I guess this post is really a rant about simplicity. And enjoying the unassuming things in life.