Birthday parties & the new generation

When my kids were little, birthday parties were planned meticulously about a month in advance. I would studiously work out the menu, hunt for unique and colourful invitation cards, spend hours online discovering party games that would keep the little ones entertained for two hours at a stretch. The birthday party would be THE dinner-table-topic for weeks before the actual event. A couple of days before, I would start packing the pass-the-parcel gifts, decorating the house with streamers and balloons and sorting out the music that would be played. Wiggles, Hi-5, Bob the Builder….’Mummy, what will you put in the lolly bags?” was a question that was always asked with much concern and anxiety. For, after all, there should be just the right mix of lollipops, jelly beans, Mars Bars and Kit Kats. Once the little guests arrived, they would all sit around in a circle, munching on fairy bread, tiny teddy biscuits and cheese twisties. Then would follow ‘Pin the tail on the donkey’, ‘Musical chairs’, ‘pass the parcel’ and a good half hour in the sand pit, building castles and mountains. It was fun watching them run around the backyard, blowing bubbles, wearing party hats that wobbled and toppled, and playing ‘catch me if you can’. This afternoon, my 13 year old daughter had her birthday party, and it was a completely different affair to the parties she had as a little child. I was struck by the difference. Let’s begin at the beginning. “Mum, can I plan and organize my party by myself?” she asked me a couple of weeks ago. I was surprised and hesitant. Let my daughter do ALL the planning and organizing? For something as big and important as a birthday party? What if it didn’t run smoothly? What if there were last minute hiccups? What if the party was not a success? Protective maternal instincts surged ahead and I was about to decline and say that maybe it would be best if the party planning was left to Mommy Dearest. For after all, don’t mommies know best? Just as I was about to argue the point, I stopped. And thought. And pondered. Would it be such a terrible idea to let her organize her own party? I am always keen on experimenting with new and different challenges. How would a teenager organize her party right from scratch? I was keen to find out. “Go ahead. Let me know if you need any help”, I told her. Quick as a flash, she texted/emailed a bunch of friends. The message was light and relaxed. “Can you make it to my birthday party? Details as follows….” Then followed a hesitant request. “Mum, can we do ten-pin bowling and then maybe karaoke?” I agreed. “What about food?” I asked, fascinated. This was so laid-back compared to the parties I used to plan for them when they were babies. “Oh..ummm…shall we stop at Macdonalds before the bowling and grab a bite?” Easy-peasy! And that is exactly what we did. Stress-free….casual….fun…. The girls had a ball….. As parties go, this was easily one of the least stressful to organize. I wasn’t exhausted…I didn’t have to do anything, after all. Somewhere along the way, though, I felt a pang of nostalgia. Ten-pin bowling and karaoke and Macdonalds are all well and good. But oh, for the charm of those good old days of party hats and pass-the-parcel, sand castles and Bob the Builder. Some memories remain engraved on the heart and soul forever.

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