I Have To Organise My Kid's Party And I'll Cry If I Want To
If it doesn't have acrobat, it's not a birthday party.
As a wog, one of the certainties in life, clear to me since childhood, is when it comes to running and hosting an event, you either go big or go home.
My parents are Italian migrants who came out in the 60s. My childhood years were dotted with extreme weddings, christenings, 21sts and anniversaries. An Italian wedding isn’t an Italian wedding if you don’t have at least 300 guests, a couple of costume changes (from the bride and groom, as well as the participants), a myriad of entertainers (including a b-grade singer-celebrity and an acrobat) and a cake which has numerous tiers and takes a small army to construct. I understand the ritual and the sacrifice which comes alongside an event with the famiglia.
Some thirty years later, I feel like the large-festa mentality has caught on broadly. This means it’s not just exclusionary to wogs, Australians at large are now obsessed with hosting event extravaganzas. In lieu of my three-year-old’s birthday, I was struck again by the mega-party peer pressure. On this occasion (in some sort of bizarre flip in circumstances) it wasn’t familial pressure, rather societal.
A myriad of party questions, in fact, an onslaught, were suddenly directed toward me. Where would it be held? Who would be making the cake? Would it be a themed cake? Would there be a face painter or an acrobat (always with the acrobats!)? What would the overarching theme be? What about favours? Would the kids be receiving show-bags? What did the invitations look like, and who designed them? And so fourth – it was a veritable array of the rational and irrational. A storm of epic, party proportions.
I stood in the eye of it all. Still and calm, like some sort of mental spoon-bending, calmer than f**k, levitating, Jedi party planner.
Yes, I was accustomed to this level of party fervour, given my background, aptitude, and capacity to hold back even the most over-enthusiastic of punters.
Many are not. They haven’t had this particular muscle tested in the party-Olympics.
Somehow, the child party extravaganza has become a thing. A really big thing.
In this frenzy, people are hiring planners, extreme venues, decorations to rival a gypsy wedding, food to feed the starving (but discerning) masses, and creating world-class show-bags, which could be sold separately at some sort of Peppa Pig, PJ Masks or Dora themed show. Images are popping up everywhere on social media of said parties, complete with decorous descriptions of the extreme fun which abound with emojis (mostly of the love heart variety).
In the words of Elaine Benes when she had finally had enough of George Costanza’s wig, “I don’t like this thing – and here’s what I’m doing with it!”
Toddlers are not a discerning crowd. They mostly enjoy running around in circles, laughing at nothing in particular and demanding ice cream at all times of the day. They’re a carefree bunch, unencumbered by our adult social and mental judgments, limitations and expectations. They just want to hang out with their friends and have a giggle – as things should be.
So for my little one's birthday, I’m going to go old school.
Old school tear-off invites, blow-up balloons, sausage-rolls and fairy bread, some celery and carrots, and maybe even the ancient ice cream cake. I might even stuff a few party bags with lollies. So passe, I hear the masses gasp …. and some pass the parcel and hide and seek might do the game trick. No party planner required!
I’m quite sure she’ll be happy with the outcome.
Kids tend to live for the moment, less for the social media, and more for the fun. I find it hard to believe it’s surprising.
There definitely won’t be any acrobats.
Lisa Portolan's new book Happy As is available here.