Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Birthday greetings

It was no 4's fifth birthday on Sunday. Blimey. When she was born, I dreamed of her being five, and there being no more nappies in the house. And suddenly, here I am. I feel that I've blinked and all that time spent with babies and toddlers which seemed so endless at the time has simply vanished. Now I have a child nearly at secondary school and my youngest is well settled into infant school. An era is well and truly over. Not that I'm complaining mind, but it does feel slightly odd.

This feeling was borne out all the more as one of her birthday presents was a new dressing gown. Which means it is time to pass on the spotty dressing gown she has been wearing for the last two years - a truly momentous moment as it was the first one no 1 ever wore, so it's been knocking around the house for seven years or so. Why is it, when I quite happily parted with heaps of baby clothes without a tear, I feel so ridiculously sentimental about a dalmatian dressing gown? Maybe it is that realisation, that my time as a mother of very small children has finally come to an end, and with it my youth seems to have vanished too. This year I will be 42, Spouse has had the snip, there will be no more babies in our house till the children have babies of their own. Not that I want anymore, but still... There is a pang in realising a door has closed behind you.

We celebrated no 4's birthday with a party at a local venue mysteriously called a Lifestyle Centre. I have no idea what one is either, but it consists of the local library, our GP, two gyms, a cafe and several rooms you can hire.

Normally I like to have parties at home as I detest this modern habit of providing kids with more and more extreme activities - she's five? Give her a karoake party. Eight? Take her to a restaurant? Ten? Give him a lazer quest party. Eleven? Take them to London in a big limo... Whatever happened to a few party games and some cake to go home with? When did it all get mental? I'm sure the MadMuthas have a few ideas, don't you girls????

However, no 4's best friend had a party at this venue, where you could hire a bouncy castle, toys and dressing up clothes, and she had a ball. More importantly, her mother reported it was dead easy. As my home run affairs generally involve me coming up with a theme and a treasure hunt (with clues that I usually insanely end up writing in rhyme five minutes before the guests arrive), I have to say easy appealed. So I took the lazy option. And boy was it worth it, as we really did very little apart from feed them, mop brows, and rub banged heads. There was one bad moment after tea when I suddenly debated the wisdom of letting nine five year olds full of e numbers run riot on a bouncy castle, but apart from a few bumps we got away with it (and it was somewhat less stressful then watching nos 2&3 climb over the lions in Trafalgar Square the previous day).

The only drawback to the day was that no 3 had a rehearsal for a dance show she is going to be in. I may have mentioned the Fame School where my children go dancing before. It is a quite insane place and I only keep them there because, bugger it, they all enjoy their lessons, it is five minutes from home and I can't honestly be arsed to go looking for new classes. But they are so up their own backsides it is unbelievable.

The rehearsal time clashed with the party - a fact I had been unaware of as I thought no 3 could be spirited away at around the time the party started. She was not unnaturally disappointed because she wanted to attend the party. But knowing the Fame School of old, I know they are just mean minded enough to say she couldn't be in the show at all if she missed this sodding rehearsal (adding insult to injury she is likely to be on stage for ooh, all of two minutes!). I did ask her teacher the previous week and was told to ask the head of ballet in the week. Last week being half term, I didn't get round to ringing up to enquire (and to be honest even if I had, I know from bitter experience that the Obergruppenfuhrer who runs the office would have been less then helpful), so I asked her on Saturday morning as she teaches no 4 ballet.

Well it is a very important rehearsal, was the response, but you'd better check with her teacher. I checked with her teacher, and got sent back to the head of ballet. No 3 then came out of her lesson and burst into tears at the thought that she was going to miss her sister's party. I saw the head of ballet again and begged with her for some sensible response, but no, I had to take her, or check again with the teacher who I knew was going to say no. Furious doesn't enter into it. I wish to god I hadn't bothered asking, but having asked I knew they would throw the, she can't be in the show crap at me.

Net result was I bribed no 3 to go her rehearsal with party bags for her and her mates, and loads of snacks, drinks and sweets. She also got to play with her best friend beforehand, so in the end all was well. But boy was I cross about it...

Was also slightly disconcerted as nos 1&2 had invited their best friends to the party in a time honoured tradition which started when no 4 was a baby and she had no friends. I mistakenly thought that they might all help me. But, no. They were the biggest kids of the lot, playing on the bouncy castle, chasing each other on toddler toys which it was a miracle they didn't break and even dressing up in the dressing up clothes. No 1 put a wedding dress on over old clothes and for all the world looked like an 80s popstar.

However, good fun was had by all, no 3 got over missing the party and was pacified by the promise of a birthday lunch the following day - which I only just about survived having been out till far too late playing bridge and drinking too much wine with our neighbours.

No 4's birthday is a slightly odd event in our house, as though of course we celebrate it every year, it is also the same day fil died, when she was just a year old. The kids have no problem with this now - in fact they are ghoulishly fascinated, and neither do we especially, but we do always think about him.

Now I am not given to fanciful notions particularly. Or think terribly that it is possible to communicate with the dead - with my own father I have had no sense of where he is ever since he left us - but with fil it has been slightly different. Being a keen gardener, he bought us lots of spring bulbs for the garden and (failing to understand at the time that having small children wasn't terribly conducive to keeping up with the gardening) berated us for not planting them. We did eventually get round to it, and have had lovely daffs every year as a result.

The year he died it was a coldish spring and we had a fair amount of snow. The daffodils dallied and took their time to come out. Yet the day after his funeral, blow me down the first daffodil flowered. Somehow it seemed to me he was saying hello. The feeling stayed with me the following year, when the first daffodil flowered on no 4's birthday, his first anniversary.

For the past two years the daffs have been a bit more patchy - and last year thanks to the late spring they came at the end of March. So I've stopped thinking I'm getting messages from the dead.

But this year, when I've been thinking the odd weather was mucking their little systems up and we wouldn't get flowers for ages, what did I see when I looked out of the window yesterday morning, but a daffodil in full flower, nodding and smiling at me in the breeze.

It was a day late, but fanciful as it might seem, I do like to think it's his way of keeping in touch.

And maybe he too was marking the passing of the years, and acknowledging that his baby granddaughter, isn't such a baby anymore...

Maybe, maybe not.

But it's a nice thought...


Anonymous said...

Each year as my daughter's celebrate yet another birthday. I too am torn between giving their outgrown baby clothes as they give way to toddler clothes. I think mother's just have that sentimental gene!

Sue said...

Being of similar age I understand the pangs you are feeling.

As I cuddled up to my 9 year old tonight I wished I could turn back time to when he was about 4.

People used to say make the most of the time you have with them, but boy it goes so quickly that I want to openly cry about it.

You have had a lucky escape with the parties. My two boys both want parties at home. One to be a Doctor Who themed party (my stupid idea).

I'm not really into fancy dress for children but I thought the girls could dress up as the Doctor's assistant thereby wearing their favourite outfits.

Having a load of 9 and 10 year olds in the house is a bit of a handful especially when, last year, the girls kept talking about sex.

I'm pretty sure they don't really understand what they are saying, it's just a word to them, but you just don't know these days. They were far worse than the boys.

But I obviously don't want the younger children repeating it.

I don't want my youngest to start school and be the parent everyone else avoids!

Sue x

michael ringwood said...

Happy Birthday No 4.Dont blame you, even my mom wonders why we kids grew up so quickly. She misses the times she spent playing with us when we were babies. Wishing loads of happiness and love to your little ones.
Check out my blog on birthday ecards for some interesting info and wonderful e-cards.

nutmeg said...

I say keep and pack away just the spotty dressing gown. As a momento :-)

And having definitely decided that I will have no more children I find it surprising that little pangs rise up every so often. But I have come to realise lately that the pangs are for my passing youth. The "ability" to still have babies makes one "feel" young. I think this may be Madonna's current "issue" ha ha!

And while I don't condone these ridiculously extravagant parties I do like simple, offsite events. Jane, I don't think you were lazy - just time poor and practical. Jumping castle and dress-ups; what simple, easy fun. You did good :-)

liz fenwick said...

Ditto what Nutmeg said. Keep the spotty dressing gown. I have kept only a few key pieces and they make me smile every time I stumble across them.

Time does fly. My oldest is 14, hormonal and now about four inches taller than me, but thankfully he still cuddles:-) I don't think I could take it if that stopped just yet.

Caroline said...

I'm really moved by this post.
My littlest is three and has *the* spotty dressing gown. I am dreading her outgrowing it. I have also kept a red dress that she wore when she was one. It is Poppy red (to match her name). Sentimental to the last.
But they grow so quickly. Too quickly.
Oh I need more babies!