samoa blog

I quit being the Master of the Birthday Party Universe

It’s the Baby Demon’s birthday next week. She’s turning the big THIRTEEN. So in actual fact, she is not a baby. Something she’s been telling me since forever. Since January she’s been saying that she’s BASICALLY thirteen already. At this rate, soon I will blink and she will be BASICALLY twenty-one.

The child who is not a child, is having a birthday party. Now, I’m rather a maestro of kid’s birthday parties. Over the last twenty-five years of being a mother, I have planned and executed some elaborate and fantabulous birthday parties for the Demons who live in our house. I’m not going to pretend to be modest and humble here when each of those parties required heaps of hell stress and suffering for me, not to mention many hours of searching Pinterest for creative ideas for handmade invitations, cakes, hand decorated cookies, decorations and games – all of them made to fit a theme chosen by the lucky birthday child. I am owning my Birthday Party Brilliance dammit. Because I earned it.

It didn’t matter if we had no money, I would draw on the combined gods of borrow/beg/steal/reuse /recycle/recreate to make magic happen. Every party had thematically co-ordinated games (all devised and carried out by me, so yes, that was indeed me climbing trees to set the clues for the Treasure Hunt, and demonstrating the Limbo to a gaggle of five year olds). Every party had a craft activity where the children would make a hat or a mask or a T.shirt they could take home after. So their parents would see how clever and amazing I am. Every party had some kind of physical activity like relay races, Scavenger Hunts through the garden, and dance-freeze (because heaven forbid I let kids laze about and just have fun.) Every party had too much food. So everyone would know I have overcome my palagi ancestry and KNOW how to generously feed lots of people. Food all made by me, but it always included nutritious and aesthetically pleasing options like vegie platters and fruit boats. So everyone would know that I’m a healthy Samoan. (Vegie-fruit options which by the way, the kids never ate. Big surprise there.)

Most of those parties were during my extreme mother phase. The I-MUST-BE-A-SUPREME-DOMESTIC-GODDESS -IN-ALL-THINGS-INCLUDING-KID’S-BIRTHDAYS, OR-ELSE-I’M-A-LOSER-AND-WONT-MAKE-IT-TO-HEAVEN phase. (Otherwise known as the Dark Ages. I was lost in there for quite a long while.)

I have a hazy recollection of birthday party memories through the years. These include: burning my hands as I singed the edges of pirate map invitations. Standing knee deep in the murky water of my Dad’s fishpond and catching guppies with a net so I could send every kid home after an ‘Under the Sea’ themed party with their very own fish in a plastic bag of water. Making sail boats using blue jello and pieces of orange peel and getting annoyed because none of the kids were as impressed as I was by my ingenious sailboat crafting skills. Crying at 2am over a bowl of chocolate frosting because the damn pirate ship I was trying to decorate looked like it had been bombed several times over. Losing my mind trying to entertain twenty hyper seven year olds when the power suddenly cut off thereby deflating all the giant bouncy castles and water slides we had hired for the day. My hands red and raw IN PAIN for hours afterwards because I made chicken kabobs for the kids BBQ and the things I thought were sweet peppers were actually red hot chilli’s. Making an elaborate Teddy Bear cake for my son, who fell asleep in the first thirty minutes of his birthday and had to be woken up for cake and candles, and he wasnt happy about it. Making an elaborate Hercules costume for my kid and then having him burst into tears when the other kids showed up because he was dreadfully embarrassed to be wearing a toga. The year the Hot Man said ‘don’t worry I got some refreshments for the birthday party’, so I didnt make any extra snacks…and then a delivery showed up with TEN gourmet cakes – the fancy kind with pineapple and walnuts and carrots and poppy seeds etc, that most little kids don’t like. We grownups liked them though so I guess it wasn’t a total disaster. The time I sealed up the rainbow pony pinata too tightly and the kids couldn’t smash it open no matter how hard they tried, so we had to eventually cut it down and hack at it with an axe, then chuck the candy at the gathered children.

I’m not going to ask the Demons what birthday party memories THEY have. Because their opinion doesnt matter of course. It’s #allAboutMe here. My blog, my rules. So there.

Besides, I have a dark feeling that when I ask them, they’ll engage in a slam fest of memories which will all include their mother being snarly/grouchy/tired /panicked / covered in icing, and crying. While their Dad steps in to rescue me and try to soothe the situation.

Because that’s the problem when you base your worth and entry into heaven – on how amazing you can make your kid’s birthday party and how much you can impress every other kid’s parents. Rather than on – how happy a time your kid had celebrating their birthday, with you and their family and friends…

But I digress. The question today is, what am I going to do for the Baby Demon’s birthday party? I was getting all stressed about it. Especially because she’s old enough that I have to ask her what SHE wants to do, rather than just do what I think she wants to do. (So annoying when they grow up and this happens!) I suggested a pool party at auntie’s hotel but she says, ‘No thanks. I want to have an anime watch party.’

People, what the heck is a anime watch party?

She breaks it down for me. Her six friends will come to our house to watch several episodes of their favorite anime, called My Hero Academy. Even though they have watched all the episodes already. Several times over. They will dress-up like their favorite characters.

“No, its not dress-ups Mum. It’s called cos-play,” she says. Patiently. Slowly. Because I need it spelled out for me.

Then what will you do? I ask.

“We’ll have a quiz about the show and see who gets the most correct answers. And maybe a prize for the best cos-play. Eat a bit of food and then everyone will go home.”

That’s it?

“Yes, that’s it,” she says.

It sounds incredibly boring to me. I try to suggest games, crafts, and various other activities besides sitting there watching a TV show that you’ve already watched. But she wont be moved. “This is what I want to do for my birthday. Thank you for your offers and suggestions for other things.”

I’m getting more stressed. It’s far too easy and simple. How am I supposed to be an Amazing Mother and Bestest Parent in the Universe when I agree to such a plan? What if all those kids go home and tell their parents about the shocking lack of fun stuff at the party? Then they’ll think I’m a loser mother! And definitely not going to heaven.

I’m complaining about the problem to a very wise friend, who then says to me, ‘It’s HER birthday. It’s easy. It’s what SHE wants. Embrace it.”

I am grateful for wise friends. Because when I stop freaking out, I realise that:

1.I am old and tired. I really don’t want to stay up all night making cookies and decorating cakes. Or knock myself out planning games and activities.

2.The Baby Demon is not a baby. She’s old enough to plan her own party and entertain her own friends. And if that means watching anime, then so be it. It’s not MY party. (This is a mantra I have to say to myself for a few days before it sticks. Thank you Lia.)

So I say, okay go ahead with your plans. I’ll order you a cake for your friends and buy some snacks and soda on the day. Simple, easy, straightforward stuff. I promise I won’t even make a vegie platter. It actually feels nice to set down that load of birthday party expectations which I (Extreme Freakazoid Mother) had set for myself.

And then it gets even better. Because I let go and step away. Because I stopped trying to control everybody and everything.

The Demon’s big sisters then jump in and get excited to help her. They make fabulous invitations for her friends, using a super cool online Hero Academy template. And they offer to make cupcakes for her party that match the invitations. And I overhear all the sisters planning the questions for the quiz. The Baby Demon is excited for her party next week.

I quit being the Master of the Birthday Party Universe. And its okay.

Because I have actually raised some rather creative and brilliant children, who can be independent kickass event planners – when their mother backs off a bit.

(And hey, maybe, just maybe, they did learn some birthday party stuff back in the Dark Ages? From their fantabulous mother? )