Tag Archives: sons

Birthday parties – why we bother…

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The cake! Dave the Minion with balloons.

I hope that you, unlike my husband, read the title correctly.  When shared it with him, he chuckled and thought it must be composed of one long moan having automatically inserted a ‘do’ in between ‘why’ and ‘we’.  But not so.  I am, in fact, saying hurrah for the children’s party.  For all the work and stress (and not even thinking about the utter annihilation of the house), the excitement and joy that those two hours bring are worth it all in my book.

Last weekend we threw Edward his first proper party for his fourth birthday.  I think up until pre-school the party is more about the parents congratulating themselves on surviving this far isn’t it?  He had his heart set on a minion theme.  It is amazing how many people are unfamiliar with minions, compared to those to us for whom Dave, Tim, Larry, Evil purple et al are like common acquaintances.  Just another minor divide between parents and those who live in the real world and whose acquaintances are not made out of plasticine (mostly).

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Even the Source got into the minion swing of things, thanks BJ!

One lovely thing about this party was how excited and involved the big brothers were.  I had literally nothing to do with the invitation; it was designed, printed and written out by William whose PowerPoint skills (honed through weekly presentations on such things as the life cycle of grasshoppers, rugby union and Hereford Cattle – thanks for the help Uncle Robert) already put mine to shame.  It was vital, according to the eight year old to put together a brilliant playlist (What?  To make sure ‘pass the parcel’ goes with a bang?  Liven up musical statues?), resulting in one of the most fun party planning sessions we held (the catering meeting was less amicable once I said no to Happy Meals – with Coke – followed by bubble gum).  I am pleased to say the soundtrack included some songs I actually liked – in between Bruno Mars and Alvin and the Chipmunks singing Party Rock.  Much as the footage of the boys dancing (I feared for life and limb while filming this) to this song will amuse me forever I never thought I would see the day when my music collection would include the soundtrack to ‘Chipwrecked.’

The morning of the party saw William and me answering the door at 7.15am in my pyjamas to the man with the bouncy castle which prompted an outburst from William ‘But his van’s so small.’ (Sorry William)

The extra time on the castle, we had assumed would allow us peace from small people in order to fling everything into our bedroom to impose a phony tidiness on the house (I always worry for people whose bedroom doors are open to the public).  What eventuated was the cancellation of the party roughly 27 times in two hours – once when we patently knew people would be turning into our street.

Anyway, the party was a great success and Edward had an absolute ball with lots of his friends, and lots of our friends all being there for him.  I don’t mean that to sound as though he enjoyed being the centre of attention for the sake of it (but he did!), more that it meant so much to us all to have our house full of the happiness and laughter of people we love.  That is why I say hurrah for the birthday party.  It can encompass all that is well and good and working in a child’s life.  Friends are being made, relationships apart from the family forged and the coming together of this at a party is beautiful to see.  Childhood relationships, based on playing in a mutually fun and engaging way which is, in turn, being nurtured by the establishment responsible for the child while he or she is away from the family are so crucially important I think for a child’s sense of well-being.

In another layer during the party, the child sees the relationships between his siblings and their friends and his parents and their friends.  This gives him confidence to establish bonds that he believes and invests in, knowing many will have long-term value.

Living life as an expat family is full of ups and downs.  There is the constant push and pull of here and there.  I have written before about my thoughts on ‘home’ which I suppose at the very lease means I had a happy childhood.  I can certainly remember many parties; birthdays spent doing treasure hunts and pram races on the front lawn, Easter celebrations amid the daffodils, ‘pit’ parties in Roxburgh, Halloween parties in Sprouston (where older brothers and sisters wreaked their revenge for smaller ones annoyances throughout the year), the village bonfire, the Christmas Eve drinks where Robert and I would revel in being ‘looked after’ by the teenagers (probably a ruse by the parents to stop the older ones sneaking a few Archers and lemonade!).  All of these happened in a close and comforting circle of which our family was a part.

It suddenly struck me last weekend (you’d think I might have got here sooner I know), that it is our turn now to create the same for our children.  The first names on Edward’s list (at the inaugural minion party meeting) were those of the gorgeous family friends we have made, as though no party would be complete without them first and foremost.  Coupled with his closest friends from school, we were a very happy band with a very excited, very lucky boy in our midst.

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The pile of books beside my bed - a tad optimistic?  Borne of a compulsion for borrowing from the library that has got out of hand!

The pile of books beside my bed – a tad optimistic? Borne of a compulsion for borrowing from the library that has got out of hand!

It’s been all about me this week!  The boys have been fed, watered, clothed and ferried about to wherever they have needed to be, homework has happened, stars and black marks doled out but while all of this has been going on my internal focus has been on all the bits and pieces I’ve got going on.  I’m going to call this distracted parenting.  It’s new to me as until this year the boys pretty much ruled the roost in terms of time and energy – that’s collective family energy.  Perhaps this is more akin to life as a working mum (which I actually a now too!) in which case, wow, I truly take my hat off to everyone who has juggled all these components of life from the word go with kids.

I am trying to teach myself to compartmentalise which is hard.  I am realising it is not so easy to try and do a million things at once these days even or especially with constant global communication literally at our fingertips (sorry, I know as a woman I am able to multi-task, I’m just finding that these days it results in difficulties…bad feminist?).  Yesterday we had two very similar incidents to highlight this:

  1. On arriving at pre-school I just had to finish off a tiny email I had started while waiting at a red light while Sam and Edward hung on in the back.

Me:  Won’t be a minute boys.

Boys:  Silence (happily doing sticker books).

Ten seconds later.

Sam:   Argh, Mummy, when are you going to be FINISHED?

 Me:  Almost there, just a second.

 Sam:  BUT I WANT TO GET OUT (shouted loudly).

Me:  OK, alright, I was just…realise they couldn’t care less what I was ‘just’ doing.  I probably always seem to be ‘just doing’ something.  This time was Sam’s time, he adores Northern Nursery and I felt rotten for spoiling his arrival there.  Of course, my email could have waited, it’s just too easy to think I can fit another little thing in.

2.  While the soup was cooking (yes, I know that’s a bit show-offy, forgive me, I’m trying to redeem a pinch of self-worth while I admit to my faults) I thought I’d check to see whether my article had been published.  It had which meant I had to phone Andrew (who was wonderfully, joyfully supportive and proud, thank you) which went on for a bit during which Edward (who had been happily watching Rupert the Bear I’m ashamed to admit – but it’s Rupert right?  Could have been worse, could have been Seseme street!) appeared to say ‘I hungry’ in a plaintive voice.  I said, of course, ‘I’ll be there in a minute poppet’ and continued to chat and revel in my new-found, hard-earned writerly ‘fame’.  A minute later he came back and began physically tugging on my arm to wrest me free of the technology that was binding me.  I felt dreadful so allowed him nutella on toast and apple juice for lunch.  Rubbish.

We are a bit of a technophobic household it has to be said.  We have no ipad, ipod, foxtel.  But perhaps I’m kidding myself and it is simply down to finances as opposed to my strict moral compass (you can get up now from rolling about in hysterics) or rather old-fashionedness.  Those technologies we do have are getting in the way.  They are stretching themselves over the compartments I mean to impose.   I don’t think I’m alone.  I go to a soft-play centre or park with the boys and find it hard not to get my phone out just to check if there’s anything that I need to attend to. What?  I am not a member of the UN,  nor am I a medical or legal professional on-call.  The most important communication I might have will be something from a member of the preschool social committee.  So nothing that cannot wait for me to have some time with my amazing boys.  I have taken to leaving the distraction in the car – not Edward, the phone.

reliant on technology

 I give Andrew a row for working on his laptop in bed.  Not only is it deeply unsexy, he works until he’s cross-eyed then wonders why he sleeps so badly.  I use my phone as alarm which means the first thing I do after hitting snooze is check my emails.

As if to prove my point, Andrew has just appeared (it’s 6.47am) to replenish my tea with Blackberry in hand which he insisted on checking to see what had come in overnight, phew the email he wanted was there.  It really couldn’t have waited, certainly not until the office and his work time officially begins.  I have 13 minutes of my allotted work time left before the hand ticks over to the next compartment and today I don’t want to be late, or distracted.

Since when were these not enough?

Since when were these not enough?

Edward demanded this be put in, starting young.

Edward demanded this be put in, starting young.

Incessant technological interuption.

Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward. Victor Kiam.

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I’m sure the quote of the title isn’t meant to be funny but the never-say-die optimism makes me chuckle.  Perhaps I’m not cut out for motivational thinking?

Sam's family portrait.  He is the big one with six eyes, I have the long eyes on stalks!

Sam’s family portrait. He is the big one with six eyes, I have the long eyes on stalks!  This is my motivation…

I have to admit I’ve been finding it hard to motivate myself to write this week.  Having the goal of the run and the fundraising focused me and gave me something to work towards and therefore progress – or lack thereof – to relate.  I’ve realised how beneficial it was for me to have that goal (echoes of being told I just had to find an aim in life as I floated through my teens and twenties…) and how invigorating I found being that busy.  It was exciting busy rather than just the normal busy blur of washing and schoolbags and meals that my life generally is.  My parents have made being busy into an art form; my Mum constantly has huge number of balls in the air and never seems to drop one (if she does she is amazing at damage limitation).  I felt like that for about a week and I realise everyone benefited, I was more efficient in every area.  I need a new challenge to save you all from my introspective pontificating!

Suggestions are welcome as long as they don’t involve running anytime soon.  My ankles are slowly slowly recovering; it is really quite alarming how long it’s taking and how much I’m rattling!  My amazing inspirational friend Joanna is doing the first of two 10K runs on Saturday – FOR FUN!  Or at least a personal challenge.  There is no way I would have managed it were it not for raising money for Darcy so I am full to the brim with admiration.

I can’t believe my firstborn is 7!  I love remembering his first few months, the wonder and humility I felt – and utter helplessness at times.  My Scotland memory box is not one I allow myself to access very often, knowing it will tinge my day with melancholy.  But thinking of my dear friend mentioned above has allowed me to immerse myself and wallow.  Life moves on apace, not just for the generation following us but the one in front too.  Our control is so little perhaps all we can do is watch over our own little patch and hope for the best – take heart from children and keep it simple. I wish I could stand beside you Jojo to face the next chapter.

It seems we are all sentimental and love harking back to our childhoods – by watching funny montages on YouTube, ironic no?   Perhaps it comes out of a natural nervousness of the future as the unknown, especially on our children’s behalf.  Children are so beautifully in the now it’s hard not to envy them their lack of care about things past or anxiety about things to come – until it is suggested that the Wii might not be brought out at the weekend, then they’re plenty worried.  I’ll never forget William’s first teacher at day-care telling me she had a book about managing children without ever resorting to punishment or bribes…she was fired soon after, maybe for not getting children, at all?

One thing that is driving me potty in terms of bribe material is the huge individual bag of sweets the parents of Sam’s rugby team dole out at the end of every match.  Last week Sam’s loot surpassed that in the bags I made up for William’s 7th birthday party.  It’s not simply the number of baddies being ingested at 9.00am after a lovely healthy start to the day, it’s the misplaced ‘reward’ they are getting.  Isn’t the best reward the praise and excitement of their family and the feeling of having played to their best?  Perhaps I am misguided and naive but I know that Sam is on a natural high before the sugar kicks in.  Being such an old bore when it’s my turn I am going to go old school and take one bag of something like jelly snakes and give them one each.  It may well seal my fate as the mean mum but I’ll be channelling the Bupa ad and telling myself they’ll thank me one day…

The Jamie Oliver food revolution day got no media coverage here but we had fun beginning the weekend of celebrations for William’s birthday with the complete mayhem that was our pizza party!  Ten children at the end of the week armed with dough and tomato sauce, thank god my lovely friend Hannah brought a bottle of lovely fizz to get us through! The difference between the beautiful pizzas the girls produced and the chuck-it-all-on attitude of the boys won’t surprise those of you with both sexes but I will admit to having a(nother) moment of thinking how nice it would be to have someone in the house who would willingly sit down for more than five minutes at a time!

Scarlett and Ruby joining the revolution!

Scarlett and Ruby joining the revolution!

Sam and Oli following closely behind!

Sam and Oli following closely behind!

 We had such fun playing mini golf with William’s friends on Sunday too, Andrew managed to burn some of the evil sugar and colourings (in the cake that he had, mostly, made!) out of them with soccer afterwards too – impressing some Mums with his speed into the bargain!

The birthday boy and cake Andrew made!

The birthday boy and cake Andrew made!

“I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do the day after.” ― Oscar Wilde

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Image  Three boys all set for the day ahead, unlike Mum.

My heart broke anew this morning as I left Edward howling in the corner of his day-care while the lovely Rachel tried to comfort him. He had already sat between my legs clinging onto me and when I extricated myself from his grip he crawled after me to the door.  Is there anything that goes against a mother’s instinct as much as walking away when your child is crying for you?  His two beautiful big brothers had said they wanted to help settle him so we had the pressure of getting them to school which helped – otherwise I might still have been there.  I am blessed three times over, so lucky.

I am of course meant to be working but the distractions are many and varied.  Luckily I am not at the kitchen table so I can ignore the dishes, washing, floor sweeping, window cleaning, bed changing, cooking, anything else taking my mind off the job.  I am procrastinating by writing so I can tell myself that’s allowed, building my readership etc.

I love this article by Dom Knight, and love the self-referentiality of reading it.

http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/news-features/how-to-not-get-things-done-20130425-2ig8l.html

Image  So grown up.  Life is one long series of changes.