The months of June, July and August seem to see a spate of birthdays, making one wonder what was happening in the months of Sept to November and if it is more auspicious to make babies in those months!!
My son’s birthday too falls in this period. Which means going through the trying task of planning for a birthday party- what theme, who to invite, whether to hold the party at home or outside, what food to order, what timings, what sort of cake, what decorations and most importantly the return gifts! It merits an essay by itself! For little boys and girls the sole purpose of coming to a birthday party seems to be, to lay their hands on the return gifts. In fact most of them ask for their return gifts as soon as they hand over the gifts to the birthday boy or girl. I often wondered who started this practice…must have been someone who had a lot of useless birthday gifts from previous parties lying around at home!
Two weeks before the actual date, the planning starts. There are major discussions with the family and friends on what to do, scouring the internet for ideas for games, entertainment etc; there are also the shopping trips for various things and the last minute additions of people, doing the home runs and phone runs to invite. Then the D-day itself- ensuring the right food has arrived, keeping things organized, managing the chaos of children of various ages, shapes and sizes, and ensuring that the accompanying mom’s are being entertained as well. I have managed large corporate events with much less stress than these annual birthday events! (Yes with lot of outsourced help!)
Finally after doing this for 3-4 years in row, I decided I could no more and had a talk with my son about the utter waste of time and energy in such events. Most of the times the ‘friends’ invited are the ones he sees only at such birthday parties. Most gifts are not even appropriate and the whole experience doesn’t even bring much joy or have any relevance. So my husband and I sat down and discussed with him about doing some thing more meaningful and special on his 7th birthday, like spending the day with children who are not privileged enough to have parents or even know their own birthdays, or have a nice dinner in the evening with the family. Surprisingly he seemed to understand and this year on his birthday we had a different king of celebration!
However my misery doesn’t end here. I still have no respite from being invited to the birthday parties during these months! Every mom I know dreads happy birthday party ‘invitations’. First having to buy an appropriate gift, which believe me is more difficult than devising a media plan for an ad campaign at work; buying an age appropriate toy, trying to guess what the child might already have, keeping the interest of the child in mind in case you know the child reasonably well, maintaining an equality in the budget, sorting through the plethora of choices available in the market in the rainy Mumbai, surely gets your head throbbing! Then comes the harrowing part of actually accompanying the child to attend these parties. Here you are in a party where you hardly know anyone except the birthday child and her mother. You have to sit through the next few hours like a fish out of water trying to keep that smile on and pretend that you are enjoying the whole experience! Actually there is one more person that you might know, the magician or the entertainer. You have seen him in the last 5 parties over the 3 months and he recognises you and smiles! Its incredible how these birthday parties are perfect examples of social memes, they all have same formats. I strongly believe all of these so called entertainers went to the same school of “b’dday party entertainment” and have the same games- Simon says, the walking through hula-hoops, collecting straws, magic shows. You know the entire repertoire and safely can guess what comes next. The worse parties are the ones where the parents seem to be trying to show off their wealth, a Caucasian model dressed as a princess and distributing sweets and singing with children, the child being drawn in a carriage dressed like a yellow flower princess, can all get a bit nauseating and over the top. I must confess though, that my son loves to attend any birthday party and has fun winning prizes at the standard games. He has figured out the tricks to beat others in some of them and hence is thrilled when these games are on! But for an adult, it is a torture. I only hope that there is a brownie point for attending each party, that Chitragupta is recording when I meet him at the Pearly gate!
I am trying to convince my boy that he can go to these parties on his own, and I am more than game to outsource the chaperone role here. The husband after doing it once, wisely refused to take any responsibility! I am waiting for the day when my son comes back and declares that he has seen it all and doesn’t want to attend these parties any more. And that will be a true respite from the happy b’dday torture!