When the fun and games were over, there was still something to look forward to after a birthday party – the ceremonial departure with a piece of birthday cake wrapped in a paper napkin. And lollies too … mercilessly exposed to the elements in a little cardboard basket.
Some things change, but some things stay the same.
As the mother of primary school children I can guarantee that children’s birthday parties still have the same appeal as they did when I was in primary school in the 70s. For the birthday girl or boy, and for the guests, a birthday party is still just as exciting as it ever was.
When I was a girl, most birthday parties were after school. I would race home, put on my ‘going out’ clothes, and walk or ride my bike to the party.
We ate fairy bread, butterfly cakes, cocktail frankfurts, party pies and sausage rolls, washed down with cordial. Not much of that has changed.
Presents were often duplicated – some common gifts were Avon bubble bath or talc, a block of Cadbury chocolate, or a $2 note. And here’s something that kind of annoys me these days: a lot of parties are at venues, and the presents are taken home unopened like a great pile of mystery loot. I guess it annoys me because my kids get so excited about wrapping the present, making a card and proudly handing it over, and then it just gets added to the stash.
But the stand-out difference between the parties I went to as a child and the parties I take my children to?
There must be somebody, one person, somewhere in the world who at some point started the whole thing about every child winning a prize! When I find that person, I will wrap them in 23 layers paper, and after each layer I will deliver a sharp painful blow to a different part of their body.
The whole ‘every child wins a prize’ thing is a logistical nightmare. Once upon a time the host could just turn their back when a parcel was being passed around and stop the music when they felt like it. Now, you have to sneakily make sure the music stops at just the right time, every time, while pretending not to look, AND remember who hasn’t unwrapped a prize layer yet.
At my daughter’s 6th birthday party I actually had a child approach me to complain about their prize. For real. My eyes rolled a full 360 degrees and then practically fell out of their sockets.
I don’t need to tell you that back in the day, there was one winner per game. And you took your prize – it might be a mintie, or if you were lucky it might be one of those little tin party clicker things – and you were happy with your prize. You didn’t try to negotiate a different prize. And if you didn’t win a prize, tough luck.
And then you said “Thanks for having me Mrs So-and-so”, you took your little basket of lollies, and your piece of birthday cake wrapped in a napkin, and you went home.
That wasn’t supposed to turn into a rant. Glad I got it off my chest though.