Tuesday 23 January 2018

Birthday fuss for my 'baby' brightens these dark days

They're growing fast, my children, but that's no less a reason for a special celebration, says Aine O'Connor

Aine O'Connor

I always hated February. Official spring notwithstanding, it felt like the nadir of all those dark winter hours, a no man's land of emotion.

Christmas had left a vapour trail of post-buzz flatness, and summer was still too far away. Then I had a baby in February, and the whole month changed, albeit just in my head. Then the baby got big enough to work out her birthday was coming up in February, so her excitement cast some glittery sprinkles over January too. It's altered the whole shape of the winter

Next Tuesday, the baby turns 11. Youngest children always get mileage from their youngest-ness, simply because there is always someone older and bigger to pave the way. Her brother will be 16 this year and has long since towered over me. So having a child taller than me isn't a novelty, but somehow finding she is nearly my height has entirely snuck up. Every so often, when I'm not wearing fat-disguising high heels, I realise she and I are almost eye to eye, and I run screaming for my wedges. I am soon to be the house shortarse.

A friend reminded me that the first time we met was at Number Two's fifth birthday party. It had been postponed because she had chicken pox and it was taking place in a fun-zone place, half the kids terrified of the resident teen dressed in a dinosaur suit, the other half assaulting it.

For her fourth birthday I'd tried a house party for her pre-school class. Number One was 'it' that time, half of them were afraid of him, half of them assaulted him. He seemed huge in comparison to these small nutters, but he would have been eight. I felt like I needed a spell in a psychiatric facility after that one.

For her seventh birthday we came back to the house where we had a pinata and Beloved for them to assault. I just hovered in the background with mini sausage rolls and some sedatives. Boys became crap by the time she was eight, so she had a pyjama party for girls only. They assaulted Beloved. For her ninth birthday she opted to swap party for money, we were going on a long-awaited trip to New York a few days later and she wanted as much spending power as possible.

For her 10th, she made the shocking decision to invite boys to her party. In- house, Beloved and each other to assault. Extra sedatives. It went well but the politics around parties are not proving improving, she's a sensitive soul and has opted to opt out. No party this year, just two friends for a sleepover to mark 11 lovely years and much improved Februaries. She's happy, so no point in me getting misty-eyed. It's just what she feels like now -- it might change next year or the year after.

Number One had his last birthday party when he turned 13. Well, I say party, a whole lot of boys in a forest with paint guns. One team contained Beloved and my brother and half the boys, the other was made up of me and half the boys. Everyone, regardless of team, seemed to think I was either an excellent target or shield. I had bruises that lasted a month. A party's not a party without some kind of target.

Party or nay, we'll make a fuss. Birthdays are a great chance, especially in the midst of all this gloom, to celebrate the lovely things.

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