Today was another first for us with the twins: their first birthday party. Not their birthday, of course, that’s in August, but the first birthday party they were invited to.
When I was a child, birthdays were simple and fun. Parties were usually held sometime in the afternoon or early evening, in the birthday boy’s house. Much or all of the food was home made and games were the stock arrangement of musical chairs, pass the parcel and blind man’s bluff.
Things have changed since then. The party we were invited to was at a food court and gaming arcade in a nearby mall. What’s worse is that we were expected to be there at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Who goes anywhere at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning? I couldn’t possibly get me and the kids (not to mention Amit)fed, bathed, decently dressed, and ready to leave the house by that hour! I suggested that we politely decline, but Amit wanted to go. After all, this was a college friend we’d met a total of three times in the last ten years and whose son we’d be meeting for the first time ever at his third birthday – clearly it was too important an event to miss.
Despite my best efforts, it was 11 by the time we left home, but I think we reached in good time. The gaming area was being blasted by mind-numbingly loud and tuneless music and the twins were far too young for any of the games. After we had found and greeted the hosts and the three-year-old boy for whom we had not even got a gift, I took the girls into a big fancy playpen sort of thing, where an attendant put them on a long and steep slide that scared them half to death. Once they had recovered from that unhappy experience, they wandered around the play pen in a bewildered fashion, trying to avoid an older child who was intent on knocking them down with a monstrous rubber ball.
After 20 minutes of this, we emerged and explored the area a bit. The hosts had procured a card that gave the kids access to all the games, but only Amit used it once to play something that looked like a cross between carrom and football.
At 12 noon, we were all shepherded towards the food court section, where balloons cordoned off an area set aside for this party. Cake, in the shape of a red-and-white car (it was chocolate underneath the icing), was cut and distributed and “lunch” was gradually brought on. It consisted of noodles, pizza, sandwich, and fries, accompanied by fizzy drinks. The twins had never eaten any of these before, and since they don’t digest wheat well, I wasn’t very happy with the menu, but they enjoyed the fries and the icing off the cake. The cake was delicious, but we’ve avoided giving them chocolate since I read that the liver isn’t equipped to handle it in the first two years.
At lunch, we saw the other guests, maybe around 7-8 families other than us and the hosts. We were all seated at two long tables arranged at right angles to each other. We knew one other family well, so we sat with them. None of the other guests were introduced to us nor, I gathered, to each other.
By 12.45, we said our goodbyes and were further embarassed to receive return gifts, considering we hadn’t even given a gift in the first place.
Perhaps the whole outing would have been more fun if the kids were older and could have enjoyed the games; but I still think that a children’s birthday party should be more about children running around and playing with each other, or with toys, rather than sitting in front of machines and playing with computer simulations. I guess I’m pretty old fashioned.