Birthdays make me nervous. I am edgy on my own birthday and can’t handle the attention too well. I have never had a birthday cake as a child. My parents believed that a home cooked meal and family is all you need to make your day special. My mother diligently bought me a card every year with a personal message from both her and my father (both written by her of course!). My partner on the other hand is a great believer of cakes, candles and some special love. It took years to gain acceptance for my kind of birthday and I struck a deal with regard to my space. But a child is a shared resource and planning Li'l U’s birthday amidst these two disparate world views is an effort.
At many kiddy birthday parties my mama alarms are shrieking with worry; crowding the return gift table, competitive games where friends fight over crayon sets, an atmosphere lacking gratitude and focused only on receiving, is in vogue. I on the other hand, see birthdays as occasions to encourage companionship, sharing and building bonds. An anti return-gift crusader for a mother is definitely no fun! With all this baggage, planning birthday parties for Li'l U is immensely tough and stressful. Having exhausted every idea that agreed with my ideology - walk in the park, home birthday, play arena, no birthday, all of it. I was stranded.
So this year, yet again, with little luck I tried convincing Li'l U about the many advantages of choosing not to have a birthday party. She seemed determined to have one and even knew who she would invite. She had also decided that her friends would attend her pottery class and she would cut a rainbow cake. Little Miss had it all figured out! I meekly agreed, thanking my lucky stars all along that at least she had found an ‘ideologically right’ activity.
So we set about planning the activity, I spoke to Megha our pottery teacher and she agreed. However, my painful mother role was far from over. I added yet another hurdle to Li'l U’s perfect plan. She was allowed to invite as many children as her age – that was 5! I patted myself on my back and felt very accomplished. Li'l U came back with a list of 4 kids! We added 3 more friends to the list and there we were all set with a total of 7 kids. I decided to be generous and make a few handmade soaps for the kids to take home and we were on track.
The children were thrilled to work with clay. They learnt to mould the clay, coil it and made little coasters which they got to take home. The silence that engulfed us throughout the duration of the activity was immensely gratifying.
There was focus, concentration & learning. There was a sense of shared achievement with a friend’s project. There was zero competition and one–upmanship; there was praise, generosity, happiness and innocence. The party was a great hit, and I was ready to take a long nap.
We live in a time where possessions fill voids. Technology, city living, lack of active play time are challenges every urban parent is faced with. Planning activities that allow for development, sensorial experiences & imaginative learning unravels many new worlds for both the child and the parent.