As we have done with Christmas, its back onto the rounds of birthdays - Mental has his in only a couple of weeks.
There was never any point to writing how to survive and enjoy Christmas with Kids because there is a reason people drink alcohol on Christmas Day, and that is to survive it! (I don't drink often so I go more for the wide eyed rocking and bibbling in the corner come 3pm). Daytime drinking is a widely accepted Christmas tradition and I can't help thinking it was invented by a parent, one who had battled sharp plastic packaging which cut into them so much they ended up looking like they'd tried to slash their wrists on purpose (which may even seem a fairly fun thing to do when faced with box upon box of sharp plastic packaging), used every tool available to snip through those stupid plastic coated metal twisty wires, unravelled the new Eco friendly twisted cardboard ties (you know, the ones they wrap 30 times round a rectangle piece of black plastic so tightly that you can't cut it), pinged a thousand small accessories across the room from the plastic moulded packaging, and battled with 40 different backs of toys, with 20 different screw sizes, requiring 20 different screw drivers only to find a butter knife is the only way to unscrew them, and tried to find 10 different sized batteries to go into the toys, all of which required a 30 page booklet on how to put together and which sticker goes where. I actually spent 2 hours building Satans much coveted (demanded) pony castle with slide, which required 5 hands to build and got thrown across the room more than once with a screaming tantrum (yes, from me - I told you, I don't drink!). Most annoyingly after finally biting my lip to shreds and gritting my teeth, I triumphantly build the thing, all in one piece, I felt like I'd just gained a degree, that's how proud I was of myself. Unfortunately none of the pieces quite fit properly and it now looks like its been picked up in a tornado and dropped on a pony from a great height:
So THAT, ladies and gents, is why people drink alcohol on Christmas Day. People think its to get through the day of seeing the relatives they only see once a year, the ones they want to argue with and, occasionally, punch, to get through making the "perfect" Christmas dinner for 20, when you're used to pinging a microwave ready meal for one so have no cooking ability or experience to call on to make this "perfect" meal and feel that alcohol will somehow make you Gordon Ramsey - you know, like when you've been drinking and suddenly feel that urge to sing at karaoke and think you ACTUALLY sound like you can sing, despite evidence to the contrary, shown by lack of pop star status and other people's bleeding ears.... No, alcohol on Christmas Day was invented by PARENTS!! And its well deserved after spending months, even a whole year (January sales make great Christmas presents for the following Christmas!) preparing the perfect Christmas, with the perfect amount of magic and wonder. It takes more effort than lifting an entire car by yourself and more will power than a chocoholic on a diet at Willy Wonkas factory, it takes discipline, and stamina.
So much effort is put into it that come birthdays, we are done! So how to make a fab birthday for your little one without actually making much effort or spending tonnes? There are certain things that will make kids happy on their birthday, all the fuss is purely parents putting pressure on themselves, and there's no need, kids know they had their magic quota for the year at Christmas! They don't expect anywhere near as much as we do of ourselves. So here are my top tips of how to keep your child happy on their birthday/birthday on a budget/birthdays using as least energy as possible!
1. Kids want to see big boxes of presents. They really don't care what's inside them, its all about shallow appeal at this young age. So instead of spending money you don't have on expensive presents, just make a bit more effort on making the presents look good. Put every present in a bigger box before wrapping nicely and putting ribbon around it and add a bow; to be SUPER impressive, buy a nice patterned cardboard storage box for them to keep their new toys in - mine have pirate boxes - as its well known that kids love to play with boxes! So give them a box! Inside put any dodgily wrapped pressies that are such weird shapes that they end up looking like a 1 year old with an attention deficit order has wrapped them (we are giving PRETTY looking presents, impressive looking presents, not presents that look like a giant wrapping paper cat has hacked up a giant wrapping paper furball). Voila, nice packaging, a box to play in, AND dodgily wrapped pressies inside! What more could a child want?!
2. Kids don't want expensive presents. Well, strictly speaking that's not true, they want the world, but if you can't give them the world then give them something messy or noisy instead! Playdoh sets are the best for kids, they won't be able to close their mouths due to the shock of being given something that will make a mess, by their own parents! They're used to a family "friend" or family member who takes great pleasure in buying them messy or noisy toys, (this is purely because they hate you, or else why?!?!), but the kids are used to these slowly edging closer to the bin until one day they just disappear....
3. Quantity not quality! Lots of cheap presents are always going to be much better received than one or two good quality items!
4. You don't need to do an expensive birthday party or pay a fortune to have a soft play place party, quad biking party, paint balling party, baking party, teddy bear making party, princess party or bouncy castle party; nor do you need to spend hours of your life preparing buffet food only to spend the next three hours sweeping it up off the floor and scrubbing it off the walls. Simply tell your child they can choose 2 or 3 friends, take them to the cinema, or bowling, or a soft play area (depending on age range), and either eat cheaply at the places or promise a McDonalds on the way home. And let them actually SIT in there to eat instead if going through the driveway, then back home for the cake!
5. Get a cheap cake. If you're feeling adventurous get one of those flat edible toppings of their favourite character. Don't bother spending £80 + on a handmade 3D Frozen castle, a 3D ninja turtle head or Mario - your kids will see it for an entire 30 seconds and then you're going to chop it up!! Cheap plain cake from the supermarket, edible topper, or you can decorate yourself with ready made icing and 3D toppers if you're feeling adventurous, let them soak the effort in for 30 seconds and then they can blow the candles out! Really it's best to keep the cake as flat as possible as there will be spit involved and a smooth cake means you can wipe it off quick with a tissue!
6. Cut up cake, give to said friends, send them home, then send your child to bed!
Simple, easy, affordable, and the kids will love it! The effort, money, style and magic is saved for Christmas, a once a year effort, and all the birthdays are cheap and fun, kids already know this automatically, its an unwritten rule, but us parents have been a bit slow off the mark. I've done the £400 parties where you rent out an entire play place privately and invite every child from the class, only to watch one of them repeatedly smash your toddlers head into a plastic slide - you're basically paying £400 for your non birthday kids to be tortured, and feel like you have to be the hostest with the mostest! At this £400 party I was also heavily pregnant, feeling nauseous and ended up with my friends younger child throwing up onto a paper plate at the meal while I tried to reassure the poor lad whilst trying my hardest not to vomit on his head. So really, was the £400 worth it?!? In retrospect, no, but I did it because I thought my son would love it! He really didn't care all that much in reality!
So take the pressure off yourself, you simply can't compete with Santa, so don't try to! Take an easy, relaxed approach with no stress involved.
Also, unlike Christmas, its considered bad form to drink alcohol at 9am on your child's birthday, especially if its a week day and have to take them to school......