It’s partly because my son is an only child (and partly because I love celebrations) that I’ve tended to go all out on birthday parties for him.
We’ve had huge parties (around 30 people came to his fourth birthday), themed parties (dinosaurs, medieval knights, pirates, underwater world), multiple parties for the same birthday, costumes, elaborate cakes, games involving balloon swords or polystyrene pterodactyls (which have to be made by doting and dotty parents) … and, well you get the idea.
When he was little, birthday planning began in early January (for a late February birthday). I’d have lists, strategy sessions, even spreadsheets. It was exhausting and I generally had at least one totally ridiculous meltdown or screaming tantrum, but the parties always went wonderfully and of course I secretly (or not so secretly) loved the whole messy, expensive, over the top process.
Looking back on the birthday photos, the really nice thing is that the kids generally look relaxed and happy – often pulling faces and mugging for the camera.
That’s in stark contrast to the only photo I have of one of my birthday parties. Admittedly, it was the late sixties and we were probably all “on our best behaviour”, but really there’s no joy in the shot – no sense that it’s a party or that anyone is having fun.
And the boy-child doesn’t want big celebrations any more; no themes, cakes … not even a party. He has several groups of friends and has realised that they don’t necessarily mix well, so for the last few years he has tended to celebrate with each group separately. And it’s all pretty low-key these days. Like his father, the boy-child actually doesn’t enjoy a fuss. Can he really be my son????
Sixteen feels like a milestone worth celebrating and I’ve raised it with the boy but he’s adamant he wants to mark the occasion his way – without my involvement. He’s resistant to any sort of family occasion beyond dinner with the Big T and I.
I do feel conflicted; it’s my son’s birthday but that event also marks the day I feel we became a family – rather than a couple. By doing so it also tied us more closely to our wider whanau and I’d like to give those people a chance to celebrate something so special too.
Well, I still have three weeks — plenty of time for a miracle!
This post was written as part of my countdown to my son’s sixteenth birthday.
Here’s what’s gone before: