Don't ever be a party-pooper!
Are you too old for a party?
Whether your answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’, please evaluate with me the birthday parties of toddlers in South-Africa.
Now this is not any toddlers’ parties, but the parties of my grandchildren elaborately organized by their loving and dedicated mothers. Of course, always with the support of their loving and dedicated fathers, although fathers normally have 'other important things' to do on Saturdays, such as supporting our national sportsmen either in person or in front of the TV.
Since I became a grandmother in 2004 I have noticed that the birthday parties of babies and toddlers are more extravagant as in the time when I was a young mother, although the same things are still on the menu - a birthday cake with the correct number of candles, red and green soft drinks, candies, potato chips (crisps), popcorn and all kinds of ‘lucky dips’ filled with sweets and goodies.
The extravagance lies in the preparation, decor and/or the venue of these parties - creative invitations, balloons filled with helium, extraordinary cakes, a theme for every party, table cloths, serviettes, plates, cups and glasses to go with the theme, as well as hired jumping castles and all kinds of swings and slides. A suitable venue providing all of these 'necessities' is another option.
One day - I was in a bad mood - I spoke my mind: "I cannot understand why you mothers of today put so much effort and money into the birthdays of your children. (They were still babies and toddlers.) They are not even old enough to appreciate all of this. Are you perhaps competing with your friends? Surely you can spend your money more wisely and effectively on your children."
“We organize birthday parties for our children because we love them," said my daughter-in-law quite annoyed.
Now how could I have said another word?
In my time -
- We did not invite the grandparents; we knew they would turn up.
- We did not invite the uncles and the aunties and the cousins of our kids. All of them knew they were welcome to attend the party and we would accept their absence without any hullabaloo.
- We did not invite our personal friends, except when their children were the same age as our children. We merely invite them via a telephone call.
- The birthday girl or boy invited their friends verbally, or sometimes in writing.
- Birthday parties for children were not necessarily an annual event.
Tradition in my home, as it was in my parents' and now also in the homes of my children: The person's whose birthday it is, is to be waken up by the entire family (living in the house), singing “Happy Birthday To You”. He/she will be spoiled with breakfast in bed, or at least a piece of cake and their favorite drink - Coffee, tea, hot chocolate or milk. And, of course, s/he will receive one or more gifts. A party in the afternoon, evening or coming Saturday might be on the agenda.
parties for toddlers is an annual event. Every single guest receives a most creative invitation in writing with a RSVP date, delivered by hand or electronically via e-mail or cell phone.
Every party has a specific theme
In my time the theme was simply ‘kid’s party’, meaning lots of colorful balloons were all over the show for guests to play with until it burst. And of course the cake, extravagantly iced, appeared to be the number of years on this earth to be celebrated and perhaps also the name of the celebrator, or some Walt Disney character such as Micky Mouse or Donald Duck, or a famous TV character. Here in SA it was Haas Das (Rabbit Tie), or Knersis (a wicked, flying dragon), or Liewe Heksie (Lovely Little Witch), or Karel Kraai (Carel Crow) and so forth. (My son was born on the day our national TV broadcast corporation officially opened – 1 January 1976. My daughter was then two-and-a-half years old.)
But only the cake had a 'theme'.
Today the theme has to be Dalmatian dogs, or Toy Story, or Schreck, or Little Red Riding Hood, or Scottish dresses, or Lions, or Crocodiles, or cars, or flowers, or gnomes, or angels or colors, or Sponge Pop, trees, ocean, cats....
Name it! It could be a theme.
Grandma, or some expert, but most probably Grandma, will make tablecloths, serviettes, cushions and covers for all chairs with material displaying the theme.
Balloons, preferably filled with helium, and definitely displaying the theme, are ordered and delivered or collected on the morning of the party.
Everything should display the theme – the plates, the cups, the baggies filled with snacks and even the clothes of the birthday boy/girl as well as the clothes of the guests.
Guests are often requested to compliment the theme with their clothing -
There has to be a lot of play-stations. If you don’t have it, you are compelled to choose a restaurant with facilities or a nursing school as a venue -
Many guests means a lot of fun and a lot of presents –
Did I forget something?
My gut feeling tells me I forgot something extremely important.
What... what... what....?
And lots of salty and sweety snacks
Red and green soft drinks – preferably iced
Icecream, candyfloss, popcorn and liquirice...
NO nuts, bubblegum, nicker-balls, or anything they can choke on.
Important to remember:
Most of the parents, particularly the mothers, attend these parties. Trays filled with delicious delicatessens, tea, coffee, fruit juices, wine and beer has to be served on counters to be enjoyed by all adults while the kids play their hearts out and eat themselves to ad nauseam.