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by Pippa  Rix, mother of 2 (Kayla, 15 and Keaton, 9), avid reader, enthusiastic baker, hopeless perfectionist &  passionate freelance writer specializing in online content pertaining to kids, pregnancy, lifestyle & business start-ups. Visit her website .

Parties are supposed to be fun, aren’t they?  That’s the point of them… I’m sure of it!

This being the case, I have to wonder why it took me 11 years of life-shortening panic to realise that I was allowing a child’s birthday party to turn me inside out from sheer stress.

Without even knowing it, my usually placid demeanour  would, during the days leading up to the big bash, morph into a mood that She Hulk would be proud of. Clenched teeth, pulsing neck veins, disturbing green colour, angry guttural growl – that kind of thing.

And so it was that I found myself at 1:30 on the morning of Kayla’s 11th birthday, making personalised party packs (not just any party packs… no, no, these were being watercoloured by my own very tired and irritable hand).

The Picasso-esque party packs were taking much longer than I had planned, but seeing as I had to stay up for another hour so that I could take the toadstool-shaped meringues out of the oven – well, I should be productive during the wait, not so? Besides, I still had to ice the cake, wrap the birthday gifts, design the thank-you cards, decorate the garage, fill the profiteroles…

I burst into tears.  Which added (not in a favourable way, I’ll tell you that for free) a whole new dimension to the watercolour effect. Paint ran in, patience ran out, blood pressure ran up and tears ran down.

I was a mess. The whole situation was a mess. And that’s when I realised:

This.

Is.

Ridiculous.

And it is.

Why do we do these things to ourselves? Don’t we realise that the birthday girl and her guests – no matter how spoilt, jaded or sassy – simply do not care if the cake is homemade, or that the wooden party favours are hand-carved, or that (shoo, wow, incredible!) the goodie boxes are hand-painted?

There and then, I decided that I would take it easy from the next party forward – take the pressure off myself, take time to enjoy the party and (what a concept!) take hundreds of photos of my happy, smiling daughter enjoying this never-to-be-repeated, special day.

The sad fact is, we bend over backwards to be the perfect party hostess. And for whom? Usually, not for our child, but rather for the other children’s parents.  We want to be Bree van der Kamp – clutching a basket of homemade muffins with manicured hands – so that other parents­ think we’re Wonder Woman.  Well, out with that notion, and in with:

–          Keeping food, décor and accessories simple

–          Not leaving everything to the last minute

–          Hiring someone if you have the budget (a party planner is a godsend)

–          Asking friends and relatives for help (make sure you’re in some of the photos too)

–          Enjoying the day on the day, and not just in retrospect

After all, it’s meant to be a Happy Birthday.

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