It’s been a funny year hasn’t it? Fair to say it’s been crap for just about everybody, some a lot more than others. The past couple of days I encountered a couple of first world problems and laughed, proper belly laughed about them, which was good because at one time I’d have seen them as epic failures and got incredibly frustrated with myself, gone into blind panic and rushed around like a headless chicken to sort. Instead this weekend I’ve laughed it off, poured a glass of wine, chilled on the sofa to write this before celebrating toddler P’s 2nd and 3rd birthday/retirement (that will make sense in just a moment) in the morning.
Little miss P’s previous two birthdays have been pretty epic (even if I do say so myself) I’ve loved planning them and have put a lot of time and effort into coming up with a theme (hungry caterpillar and baby shark) spending hours scrolling through Pinterest for ideas and then even longer baking, crafty and cake decorating to pull off a DIY party at home. I’ve genuinely loved doing it, it’s been good fun and she’s lapped it up. This year however I didn’t, and no I don’t feel guilty about it at all.
I always said I’d only do these things if I enjoyed doing them. The fact is nowadays you can achieve just as much enjoyment at a paid for party, or shop bought cake and to be honest madam P would appreciate it just as much. However, I do enjoy being creative, baking, being arty and cake decorating has become a new hobby. So in reality I’ve been doing it for me, yes of course also for her but I do get a great sense of satisfaction and pride out of it (yep even the biscuit cutter sandwiches carefully arranged on the platter to look like Eric Carle’s famous insect) as well as seeing P happiness at it all. But this year I wouldn’t have done. I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, it would have been an unnecessary stress, I’d have become over tired, ratty, snappy and that’s not fun for anyone. There’s just been a lot on, I’ve finished an epic garden project, embarked on a new decorating one, gone back to work and decided introduce not one but two new 10 week old kittens into our house hold, all during a global pandemic. I don’t do things by halves do I? So pulling out an all singing and dancing birthday party, whilst still in a local lockdown so probably wouldn’t be able to go ahead anyway just seemed overwhelming and pointless. So I didn’t.
I also haven’t made a big deal out of presents this year. That’s right, she’s not getting much either. Yep I can hear some gasps already! I also do not feel guilty about this. I’ve never really been one for lots of presents. She doesn’t need them, I’m so proud to say this, she just loves simple things, a colouring book, paper and paints, a ball to kick and throw in the garden, a play in the park, a walk to go on a bear hunt in the woods. She likes the things that stimulate her imagination or mean she can interact with some one. In all honesty, all she’s asked for this birthday is to have Happy Birthday sang to her and to be able to blow out some candles on a cake. How wonderful and adorable is that? And it’s how it should be. So I’ve kept the gifts simple. Plus we’ve just got two kittens, a finished garden to play in, a trip to the safari park and I’ve built her a water wall out of cheap scraps and recycled bits-she’s obsessed with it. Those things make pretty epic presents to be fair don’t they?
I guess part of this is I also don’t want her to become spoilt. Before you say it, no, not all kids are, some don’t even get a birthday, some don’t get anything, their families can’t even afford to think of it and just because I may be able to doesn’t mean that I should. More importantly though, spoiling isn’t really about how much they get, it’s about what they appreciate and respect and even more so, it’s about the fact that they learn not to expect or demand things. That said, I’m also not using this birthday as a chance to teach her this lesson all at once, it’s something that takes time, what I mean is that I’ve reflected on what she’s got and what we’ve done recently and made a parenting decision. She doesn’t do without, far far from it, if anything she’s got more than enough things, opportunities and experiences. So no I don’t feel guilty.
That said, I did obviously want to mark the occasion so booked said safari park trip and thought about a little tea party me, toddler P and Granny T to have in our little bubble. Another budding cake decorator friend was trying out an new technique and gave me a rainbow cake, perfect!! Mini lockdown down birthday theme sorted, rainbow in honour of the nhs and all they’ve done for us during the pandemic. All sorted. Until…
A few days ago…
When our local lockdown restrictions were eased this week and a few friends asked about calling in for a quick happy birthday and delivering of gifts, I did decide that I needed to do a bit more than a trip to the safari park and cake at home with me and Granny T. So whizzed around the supermarket after an intense first week back at work, my brain frazzled! I just wanted a few sandwiches and party food nibbles to throw out on the table for any passing visitors to snack on and other odds and ends.
Or so I thought. I then got giddy and thought I could spend a couple of quid extra on some cheap party decs and a helium balloon just to add an extra special touch for little P. I had one job. One job.
Off I go to the counter and ask the lady about balloons, we get chatting as she’s sorting the weight and ribbon for it. Typical me, we’re talking away and she asks “how old is she?” I’m too wrapped up in the conversation, “2” well technically she is still 2, but not on birthday she isn’t is she? Off I trot, round the rest of Morrison’s pleased as punch with my helium number 2 floating next to me and my birthday banners in the trolley, whilst I pick up mini sausage rolls and some fruit shoots. Then it hit me, just as I’m chuntering to myself at the poor choice in 3rd birthday cards! Off I back I go hoping the assistant will swap my 3ft high number 2 for a 3. Thankfully she did and recycled the balloon as a display one, whilst giving me a funny look and saying how they wouldn’t normally trade. I’ve joked and laughed about this with friends all weekend. Then tonight I’m proudly laying about the few bits I have bought her to open and putting up the banners…retirement banners 🤦🏽♀️ Epic Gail number 2! So not only this year have I managed to not do my usual pull out all the stops themed birthday, but I’ve also managed to cock up a supposedly simple off the shelf, no fuss, just a bit of a gesture birthday as well. Maybe instead of a rainbow theme I should rename it the 2020 theme because my mishaps don’t have reflect the mayhem of this year. But does it matter? Does any of all this actually spoil her birthday? No.
She’ll love the banners, she can’t read them for a start and will just love that they’re there. She’ll still be able to feel special, 3, more grown up and most importantly blow out the candles she’s been waiting for all week. And that’s all that matters. That she’ll wake up happy, excited and 3 years old in the morning, grateful that she’s 3 and able to enjoy a nice day with mummy. If this year has taught us anything it’s that having what toddler P has tomorrow for her birthday is a lot more than what some people have and even if she didn’t have any of the presents, banners or balloons, she’s got a lot of love.
It’s been a funny couple of days, full of hilarious mishaps and first world problems. But I’ve learnt and reminded myself of a couple of important things. I no longer get stressed over small spilt milk moments (or at least I’m getting better at not doing) and that it’s the little things that matter, the moments and small things that makes us happy and that are important. So with that, I’m taking my retirement banner, corrected number 3 balloon and celebrating my daughters special day with laughter, fun, love and a rainbow cake with candles.