Not too long ago I experienced my 128,743rd “parent-fail” moment. It was the evening before my daughter’s new friend’s birthday party. In the midst of organising and confirming a grandparent’s availability to take her to said party I realised that I had forgotten to RSVP. I know… it is a basic convention of social etiquette but this is where I fall down on my sword. My house is in a state of order (just don’t lift the curtains, look behind the bookshelf or open the wardrobes), I manage to run my business with satisfactory efficiency, I’ve written three blogposts, I attend some sort of physical exercise class at least 3 times per week I eat clean, cook all our meals and I am sure I’ve washed and blow-dried my hair at least once in the last week…. It’s the social etiquette admin that I seem to fail at. Examples of such gross miscalculated social faux pas include, but are not limited to:
1. Not RSVP-ing
2. Not listening to voicemails
3. Not reading E-mails (or if read not replying)
4. Failing to respond to an SMS – even though I honestly, hands-up, thought I replied ;(
5. Not calling, texting or otherwise “Thanking you” for: gift, attendance, invite, party etc.
So… back to the story. The point is that I hadn’t RSVP’d so I quickly, with tail between my fingers, drafted an apologetic and pathetically pleading SMS asking if my daughter was still able to attend said party. Now for anyone parenting children under 4 (or 40), once they think they are going to a friend’s birthday party, you better hope you can manifest friend’s birthday party because failing to make the party happen is stuff that therapist’s dreams are made of. I received no reply…. not until 20 minutes before the party was scheduled to happen. The mother politely told me that while she would love to have my daughter attend,that due to the personalised “lolly bags” with personalised gift included, my daughter would not be able to receive a “lolly bag”.
This got me thinking… Have we completely taken our children’s birthday parties hostage and created another platform that we feel the urge to compete with one another in a vicious cycle of bigger, better, faster, stronger? And, if so, what is the impact on our children?
It got me a little worried, as even I have been victim to such extravagances. At Mayhem’s 2nd birthday (my daughter’s name is not really Mayhem – although such a perfect name for her – I’ve used this pseudonym to protect her from the potential of even greater shame and embarrassment our relationship may hold for her) I put on a gourmet spread that included freshly made Peking Duck pancakes, 3 different frittatas (2 gluten free), a selection of 4 different sandwiches and rolls, 2 salads, etc etc. For Mayhem’s 3rd birthday, I thought we’d keep it low key by attending a fairy palace and having our own special fairy host the party for us! I find it hard to remember the last time I attended a children’s party where the greatest extravagance was the paper donkey on the wall and a few personally blown up balloons blue tacked to the wall and the food consisted of nothing more extravagant than fairy bread and meat pies and sausage rolls. In the halcyon days of my youth, RSVP’s were rarely that strict, kids would turn up that you weren’t sure you invited, siblings of invited guests would often stick around and this never really led to much drama because a lolly bag consisted of a white plastic bag with terrible clown pictures on it filled with a couple of “fun-size” Smarties and Milky Ways, and if you were really lucky a packet of sherbet!
In this quest to host the best, most perfect party for our children, I wonder if we are creating or setting benchmarks so high that real life will never be quite satisfactory for them? Are we running the risk that our children will start to believe that they are entitled to such celebrity-esque celebrations and that being ‘normal’ is somehow less than ok? While I want Mayhem to have wonderful memories of her birthday, I wonder if I have set her up for a fall.I know that the benchmarks we have for ourselves, our expectations and sense of entitlements are what predict how happy and satisfied we feel with life. In my mindless and unwise quest to be the hostess with the mostest, have I unwittingly set my daughter up to feel disappointed and unsatisfied with life?
I’d like to hear your thoughts and ideas and share some of your experiences with me.