So here I am in the south of England, among other things helping offspring number one celebrate the fourth anniversary of the birth of his daughter. It’s as cold down here as it is up north. The difference is that red kites fly magnificently over his house and people speak with a different accent.
My daughter-in-law and I successfully completed our sewing project on Thursday and yesterday got down to the business of preparing for the birthday celebrations.
She made astonishing cherry-pink little buns - which are now called cupcakes in an annoyingly American fashion - and I made ridiculous quantities of butter icing with which to decorate them. I was extremely sceptical about how well the butter icing I made would go through the icing bag to make pretty patterns on the buns but my scepticism was unfounded and my daughter turned the shocking pink buns into roses. Most impressive!
I sent a photo to my 14-year-old granddaughter, a great fan of cake decorating. She was rather miffed to find the buns were not at my house but at her uncle’s. I have had to promise we will make, and decorate, similar buns for her 15th birthday
My daughter-in-law and I suspended balloons from the ceiling on cotton threads, forming a delightful balloon barrier for small children to walk through on arriving at the party. This morning the birthday girl, just 4 years old, spent 5 minutes batting suspended balloons around. We then spent 15 minutes untangling the strings before the small guests arrived. This was a strangely satisfying and de-stressing activity.
For a mad three or four hours the house was filled with just under a dozen small children - some of the almost 4-year-olds had smaller siblings - decorating pizza bases to their own liking, eating the pizzas once cooked, dancing ridiculously to nursery rhymes on CD under flashing disco lights, and managing to have remarkably few disagreements.
The parents drank Prosecco and chatted.
This was a much more satisfactory party than the sort which take place in a designated “play area” with the whole of the year’s intake invited, whether the birthday-child really likes them or not.
I remain amazed at how stressed our son’s friends are about child-rearing. There is a desperate desire to get the while thing right and produce the perfect offspring. I find myself wanting to remind them to enjoy their children now before they grow too big to organise and start to want the parents to be taxi drivers and other kinds of facilitators. And then I remember the kind of almost-competition there was when our children were small: parents wanting to outdo each other in the kind of party they put on for their children and the quality of “party bags” provided for the small guests to take away at the end.
Nothing much really changes!