Raising children does have its related stresses, it can be difficult to maintain course and keep them between the ditches. Raising them to become assertive, reasonable, ambitious, mindful, curious, self-aware, independent and kind, is a dream I gave up on years ago so these days I strive for healthy and happy. It’s still difficult. Year on year parenting changes and each birthday ends a stage and welcomes a new set of circumstances.
Blissful are the first years when all your child knows is what you’ve taught them. The only people they’ve met are those you’ve introduced them to, your own friends and family whose parenting skills are similar to yours. Birthday parties consist of a misshapen homemade cake and happy birthday being sung around the kitchen table, sweet.
But from a very early age children begin to be influenced from outside sources, they go to playschool and start putting on their own coat because Johnny does it and they start to bite and spit because Mary does that. Birthday parties now include the two or three friends from playschool, the children of the parents you favour most. They’re eyes light up at the Disney paper plates of their favourite character and everyone goes home with a party bag of utter rubbish, fantastic.
Primary school widens the breath of peers accessible and while it can be devastating when you have to facilitate a playdate between your most cherished possession, and the undesirable, nit infested, foul-mouthed, holes –in- the- knees -of -his -uniform boy, from down the road, you can commend yourself on being open-minded and afterwards convince your precious that birthday parties are better with old friends, and maybe he can meet his new friend another time. With this clever control being effected, you’re still on track to mould your child into the person you want them to become. You leave Messy Monkeys a few hundred quid lighter with a car load of happy seven year olds, brilliant.
I had looked forward to the sedate secondary school parties of having three friends (fingers crossed maybe the three I choose originally) to the cinema followed by a trip to Eddie Rockets or Dominos pizza, I would sit in the coffee shop and read my book, car keys in hand, ready to take them home when they had enough frozen yogurt and healthy smoothies. Alas, the rug was well and truly pulled from under me when prior to this peaceful birthday plateau, we emigrated to Abu Dhabi, lovely.
As the party invitations started to come in, via text to my daughters phone, at this stage parents are totally bypassed and their sole contribution to a birthday party is limited to their wallet, I began to worry. When the parties were more and more like corporate events and not a twelve year old’s birthday party, I began to hanker after the Disney days of paper plates and Cinderella party bags. Among the parties were, Aisha’s trip off Saadiyat Island on a 50ft yacht for twenty children, Rebecca’s limousine trip along the Corniche in Abu Dhabi followed by brunch at the Sheraton for twelve twelve year old’s, eleven including the birthday girl as apparently that’s all the limo could seat, oh boo! I heard, Fatima’s, catered garden party with pool disco was a tad disappointing, the hired contortionist only preformed for fifteen minutes, ridonkulous.
Due to under-funding and lack of parental guilt, my daughter’s birthday was a beach party complete with a cool box of treats, suitable for nine different nationalities and unlimited access to the sea. I understood the major concession this party was, given her current influences. Therefore, I agreed to omit the birthday cake, as apparently a birthday cake at twelve is sooo embarrassing, I also agreed to leave the camera at home and at no point in the party was I to enter the private cabanna or be visible to her friends. Her friends, who not only did I not choose but I didn’t even know what country they were from, random.
So not in a coffee shop in Ireland but on the beach in Abu Dhabi, I waited for the secondary school party to finish, as I held the car keys and read my book, bliss.