Thursday, 22 July 2010

Blow The Candles Out...

Blow the candles out and make a wish! Who hasn't as a child been fed this line before the applause and cutting of the cake. It's a time honoured tradition, although when you think about it a pretty disgusting one at that. Who wants to eat a slice of cake generously sprinkled with somebody else's saliva? Put like that and a colourful iced sponge instantly loses its appeal, unless you're the said spittle-maker. Harmless as it may be, I'm surprised our germ-phobic society hasn't yet thought to ban this ritualised huffing and puffing.

Birthdays are just that though – rituals. A rite of passage. A passing of time. For the younger generation, puberty, adulthood, and new adventures beckon, while for the grown-ups it's one more year filled with responsibilities and “you should know better” tone of voices. Where does that magic go? Parents are all too keen to create and re-create this “magic moment” for their offspring and for themselves. No expense is spared in pursuit of its briefness. Commercially, children's birthday parties are big business and parents think nothing of indulging their little darling's every whim. Little they might be, but their wish-lists can be extravagant! Some of you may have seen the BBC1 documentary, “My Child's Big Fat Birthday” earlier this week, which followed different parents planning their child's big day. I was both astounded and appalled by the excessiveness parents were prepared to go to. The parties portrayed were wedding-scale affairs with venue hire, entertainers, props and costumes, and spiraling costs. Granted, the families featured may have had more funds at their disposal, presenting an unrealistic view, but don't all parents have a duty to set the boundaries and raise responsible adults? Nothing appeared to be off limits and there was a selfish and competitive edge. An opportunity for the host-parents to be triumphant and for the attendees to attempt to better it.

What has happened to the humble birthday party? It made me reflect on my own childhood celebrations. It was only then I realised that of my generation I was probably one of these very children – a spoilt little madam! An only child, I could be a real “Amelia-Jane”, with stamp-your-feet or sit-down tantrums. When I was good, I was very very good and when I was bad I was horrid. Thankfully I grew out of those very public displays, but I was indulged. Birthdays were magical - traditional with party games, jelly and ice cream at home or held at a venue of my choice, such as a local roller disco or Rock Circus in London. Tame compared to today's expectations, but nevertheless a gold standard back then. Gone are the days where a child will be satisfied with a brown paper package tied up with string in a game of pass-the-parcel. Now an adult, the magic has well and truly faded. I dread my birthdays almost with relish. I hate celebrating and being expected to “ooh” and “aah” appropriately in good humour. Give me a nice simple day without any interruptions – nothing more, nothing less.

I'm not a parent, so I'll be the first to admit that perhaps my understanding of the role is flawed, but I hope at least my opinions are objective. Being a parent is tough - I get that. My parents like so many others worked full-time and tried to overcompensate for their guilt, but at what price? Understandably parents want only the best for their kids. For them to have what they didn't, but where do you draw the line with this lavishness? What are we teaching the children of today – the future generation? You can get what you want when you want it no matter the cost could be the everlasting legacy.