Sunday, 6 February 2011

Birthday Brainfreeze

I don't know what it is like in the States, but here in Latin America it seems like the birthday party is a yard stick by which one measures the popularity of the kids and the social status of the family.

We have been to three of five birthday parties so far and they all seem to be these hyper choreographed events with actors hired to "entertain" and play characters and matching cakes and cups, and expensive gifts for all the invited guests, not to mention food and drink and parting gifts for their family members who all come's a HUGE socializing affair every other week and at the last one at least four moms had their NANNIES there so they could kick back and enjoy the conversation with their friends at the country club. And the last one was a Saturday afternoon outdoors...I had on jeans and a t-shirt and my sneakers thinking it might actually be a casual affair (as we were lead to believe by the hostess) and all the other moms were done up to the nines...some had jeans, but with heels, and coiffed hair and professional make-up. I felt like such a schlep, but the funny thing is when I left the house I actually felt sort of cute.

I feel so out of place. Don't get me wrong, they are lovely parties and we are grateful to be included, and to have such generous parents in his class. They really go all out and it is so nice to be included. And they are just as sweet as can be, really. But I feel so disconnected. I feel like I'm sitting in on a filming session of the Real Housewives of Bogota, and meanwhile I've probably got banana smeared somewhere on my clothes or in my hair and I'll be the butt of the table's joke when we finally leave. If these are the Jones, we aren't even in sprinting distance of their level, let alone thinking about keeping up.

So next month is Benjamin's 6th birthday and originally I was thinking of just having something at our apartment for his closest 4-5 friends and the four of us and maybe a couple co-worker's families, inviting my friend who is a magician and a professional clown over to make some balloon animals with the kids and maybe teach them all a magic I am having serious anxiety, like flashbacks to being the nerdy kid no one wanted at their party and who sat waiting on the front steps until dusk for no one to show up to her party sort of anxiety.

And Jamie doesn't help as he just wants us to give the kids a present at breakfast and forget about it the rest of the day, and there's no happy medium for him at all. If it can't be huge, why bother. And I what if he hasn't got any friends to come anyway, and we're sitting there eating cake for 30 people for the next 2 months. Why can't we just have SOME friends over, why does it have to be all or nothing? Why can't I just show off my ace-of-cake-iness while playing some fun games with a half a dozen kids? Why do their parents have to come along and make me feel all self-conscious and flustered?

No, apparently we are expected to invite the whole class of 25 kids and then some, and then we're expected to feed the kids and their parents and possibly their brothers and sisters, too. And then there's the fact that no one here RSVPs, and so we might have 25 show up or we might have one...or none, and then what? I just wish Easter would sync up with his birthday again so we could run away to the beach as a family and be done with it all. I am properly freaked out...

I just want to make a fun cake, have pizza and soda for the kids and beer for us grown ups, with a few friends and some games and music. I was even thinking of doing it in the park, picnic that totally unacceptable? Do we even need to ask?

I did not expect this to become so complicated nor fraught with so many emotional landmines.

Should I give in and just splash out and get the pre-planned all inclusive party room at the nearest party salon du jour and just go along with the crowd and get my hair and nails done before the EVENT, or should I stick to my original plan and let my six year old pay the price in popularity points, but give him the gift of a model of integrity and courage? And since when are birthday parties such defining moments of one's childhood?


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