Last weekend I did something I haven’t done before. Although I’ve wanted to do it for years.
I gave up the idea to have a perfect children’s party.
I managed to let go! I’m so chuffed with myself!
But I’m also quite sad. Because I knew years ago that all kids really want on their birthday is to have fun and feel special. But instead I fussed and faffed and the feeling of having fun got lost along the way.
I’ve hosted a total of 18 parties in 3 countries. I’ve had my fair share of making a complete fool of myself, not meeting the expected protocol (who write these anyway?) and stressing way too much while trying to host the perfect-Pinterest-party.
Our first party in The Netherlands was… well… interesting. The whole neighbourhood, uncles and aunties, friends and family are invited. They all sit in a circle, which is quite intimidating if you walk into the room completely oblivious of how it’s done. You’re expected to go around and shake each and everyone’s hand and say “gefeliciteerd” (which means congratulations). Birthday cake with lots of cream instead of icing and tea is served. Needless to say, I was very pleased to be invited to a children’s party in The Netherlands before I had to host one!
Lize’s 4th birthday was our first in England, shortly after we relocated. Unfortunately I wasn’t invited to a children’s party in England before I hosted one (now that I think about it, where did we find all the “friends” to invite?). And since I didn’t think the “party police” or “policy and procedure documents” existed, stipulating how you are supposed to host a party in England, I made the mistake of giving each child a slice of party cake at the party. The look on their faces should have been a clue – a confused look as if to say: “What am I suppose to do with this?” What I didn’t know is that at most English children’s parties, there is a “no sugar” rule (again I’m not sure who installed this rule and when). Sweets and a slice of the birthday cake, wrapped in a serviette, is put into a plastic party bag and sent home. Not only did I serve the cake at the party, I also didn’t give the kids party bags to take home with them. When the first toddler asked me where her party bag was, I didn’t quite know what to say. Was it not enough that they each went home with three craft products they made at the party?
In contrast to the English, the South Africans seem to have an “all sugar” tendency. Cara tried to warn me and said I was weird when I bought each child a small plastic tub, filled it with grapes and put it in the party box. The English tradition obviously rubbed off on me. Within seconds after opening their boxes, one commented: “Why are there grapes? Party boxes should only have sweets in, not fruit!” Another lesson learned – always believe your child when she gives you advice on what to do and what not to do, especially when it comes to her party!
I don’t think we can blame the children who asked for party bags or those who told me I was not supposed to serve fruit. They are simply children who have become used to a generation of moms who work too hard and pay far too much to pull a fantastic children’s party off. A party that ticks all the boxes, meets the expected standard, while at the same time are unique enough so their children’s friends aren’t bored.
So, this is me standing up and saying:
“From now on this is how we’ll do parties in this house:
We will be intentional about what we do and what we don’t do.
We will do: baking, decorating and organising, together.
We won’t do: stressing, fretting and fussing (that rule probably applies to me more than it does to them).
We will not rob the bank, we will not opt to stay on top of the latest trend and we will not try and please everyone.
We will keep it simple!
All whilst remembering the real reason for birthday parties: “celebrating a new year and remembering the blessing of the past year.”