Managing Birthdays as a Parentby Gemma Campbell
As a Mum of one, birthdays were easy. Plan party, invite people, buy presents that were asked for and negotiate with family and friends for the other suitable presents. So, when I became a Mum of two, I thought it would be very much the same. For the baby’s first birthday, his big sister helped with the opening of presents, blowing out the candles and playing with the toys and gifts. We had a little soft play party. The family joined us. All was well and in all honesty, I didn’t think too much about it as it had been relatively straightforward.
A year later and birthday number two was upon us. This time there was a local lockdown to contend with and so no party, no family and I thought a whole lot less stress. In fact, we had a lovely time wandering around our local zoo and big sister had all the fun of helping again. The family got snippets of videos and tons of pictures. We chatted on video links throughout the day. Cards and presents were posted without fuss and that inevitable unspoken family rivalry for the ‘best presents’ was thankfully missing. And as a two-year-old after a long summer lockdown, friends weren’t really in existence and it didn’t feel like the loss of a party was such a big thing. He wasn’t really all that fussed as there was no fuss, bar access to lots of “cakey”. And he definitely liked that too much, as the little bit of birthday sick made an appearance just before bedtime.
A few weeks later however was big sister’s 8thbirthday. This time, two year old ‘got’ what presents were. And “cakey”! But unfortunately, this time, didn’t get that it wasn’t his birthday.
Big sister’s cake and balloons and presents were all laid out in the dining room ready for her to wake up to. But baby brother got there first…we were all awoken by the popping of the balloons, most disappointingly the large rainbow Number 8. And then, terror toddler clambered up on to the dining room table and was already a full handful into the carefully crafted homemade cake before we managed to grab him. Presents were immediately snatched and in one case, completely stolen. It didn’t matter how much we cajoled and attempted to prise the present from his chocolatey fingers, he was not giving up “car” easily. In fact, at one point both children were crying and I resorted to ordering another on next day delivery in the hopes of solving this new, wholly unexpected, problem. The 8-year-old birthday girl having to forfeit her present and wait until the new one arrived, as she ‘understood’ and could be reasoned with slightly more than the 2-year-old.
Lockdown had been lifted here in Wales and whilst family in England weren’t permitted to visit, school friends were available for a small milkshake party outdoors. But again, terror toddler was there; snatching at presents, crying for “mwilk” and generally being a nuisance for the girls. There wasn’t really an option for him to not be there either.
And so Christmas is the next hurdle. The questions are very much, do we buy them joint presents? Identical presents? Different presents but that both can play together with? For it isn’t just the terror toddler who is a nightmare. Big sister is just as bad and last Christmas spent more time playing with the ride on Tractor than she did with her dolls. Although her dolls were quite happy being bashed by a baby. We are also contemplating whether to give up their separate bedrooms and have a sleeping room they share and a playroom - as when they aren’t crying and fighting over each other's toys, they do play very happily together. Terror toddler in unicorn flower headbands and pretty bracelets and big sister with cars and toy drills. Or the other way around, depending on their mood that day, at that moment.
And as for the next birthdays, I can’t remember if threenagers are worse for the whole present tantrums or not, but I know I need a soft play centre open and to be out of lockdown so I can pay someone else to provide the entertainment. And for Grandparents to attempt to reason with the unreasonable ones! I’ll be in a corner, chatting to other mums and sharing their horror stories of party hell and lockdown lows. Hopefully drinking something a little stronger than coffee!