We’ve come a long way, baby.
Our daughter turns 14 soon. We’re busy texting friends’ parents with sleepover deets, working out how many mattresses we can fit in the living room and thinking about pizza toppings. Jake and I will relinquish the better part of the house for the evening and take refuge in the bedroom with Netflix. It’s a pretty straightforward situation.
Every year, like a lot of mothers, I think about my childs’ birthdays gone by, including the original (which involved a lot of drugs and not the recreational kind. It was the best of times, the worst of times). It used to be a lot more complicated. Am I happy things are settling down? Not sure.
You can’t “drop and run” till they’re five or six so there was plenty of pained small talk with other parents whose children were called Sebastian, Cribbage or Wingnut. Trust me, the minute I locked eyes on a parent whose vibe was remotely close to mine, I pounced. They were mine, whether they liked it or not. Unfortunately this happened less often than I wanted or imagined. Although, reading this, I probably can’t blame them. With no family in town and working nearly full-time, I may have carried a scent of desperation. (Okay, I know it’s not about me. But it kind of is). Anyway, as a daycare kid, Mollie bombed around the place full of sugar-fuelled, blissful joy with all her daycare mates, and us parents, knackered from a week of working, would scrabble around blindly for topics of conversation. If we were lucky there’d be a glass of wine in the mix: the mothers would gather in a group and the dads would skulk in the background clutching bottles of beer and avoiding eye contact.
The Golden Years
Primary school ushered in a new era, party-wise. Suddenly party invitations were an opportunity to offload*. Like the secret lemon-juice-read-with-a-flame letters we used to do as kids, they held a secret code: “Let us take your child off your hands between 1.00 and 4.00 on Saturday week. And when it’s your turn, we’ll expect you to do the same”. And we did. I loved organising those parties, with no parents there (well only the ones I wanted to be there) to judge my efforts. They were genuinely fun for us as well as the kids and I miss them. There was the one where we invited every kid in the class, complete with a magician who turned my wedding ring into a rabbit, resulting in a panicked ten seconds. I got it back, although I never found out what happened to the rabbit. The trestle table reached the length of the living room and we were cleaning up hundreds and thousands for months afterwards.
There was the “Olympics” party which necessitated gold medals for everyone and a Fairy Treasure Hunt of epic proportions. These were standard birthday party fare for us: I’d ransack the two dollar shop and buy all kinds of crap which would be wrapped up at each “clue point” with a new clue from the fairies, complete with glitter. The dog would chase all the screaming little girls around the garden, hoovering up glitter in their wake, which had interesting results a couple of days later. It was a sad day when Mollie eye-rolled me at the suggestion of another Fairy Treasure Hunt.
*We love our kid as much as you do yours, but back then, given the chance of a few hours of “us” time; we were all in.
Guys, stay close. But not too close.
The Tween years heralded a different kind of celebration: suddenly Mum and Dad were a necessity in terms of ferrying the kids to the movies / bowling alley / pizza place, but if we could keep our distance just a bit that would be great, thanks. There was the trip to the movies when I thanked God for the 3D glasses as I sobbed my way through the feature (hey, it was Toy Story 3. And I had just re-mortgaged the house to buy the popcorn and drinks). There was the disco party complete with revolving disco lights and SingStar. I’m not sure what the kids did, but I rocked the Abba numbers.
Stuck in the Bedroom (and not in a fun way)
So here we are, securely in the teen years and banished to the end of the house while our daughter and her friends hang out in the living room and do whatever 14-year-olds do. The dog will still chase after them but there will be no glitter to clean up this time. Although I am tempted to hit the two dollar shop again, and I still have that Abba SingStar disc.
Do you think they’d mind?