Recently, I had to organize my daughter’s second birthday party, and it really set me thinking on how birthdays have changed over the years.
As a kid, I had birthday parties too, but they were simple affairs. We didnt have much of a choice for cake, the gifts we gave others were simple and there was no concept of return gifts. We got together, had some fun, played some simple games and that was about it.
I have been attending birthday parties of late and getting increasingly disturbed by the extent of consumerism involved. Parties become events, which are managed by professionals. There are professionals for games, for decorations, who knows, probably even for arranging return gifts. But for me, the simple joy of ordering your own cake, shopping for snacks or helping with the decorations for your party was missing.
With my daughter’s party, more than anything else, the two of us wanted to take ownership for the party. We wanted to get involved in it, get our hands into it.
We developed our own return gifts, little booklets with a short story. We piloted it, took suggestions and reworked on different models. Some friends became involved in developing these gifts as well. They helped out with the arty bit, we had meetings and phone discussions on how to make the product more interesting and kid friendly. We personalized messages for each kid. The final product was really a labor of love, not just for the two of us, but for all of us.
Similarly with the decorations. I remember, for her last birthday party, we were so hassled with stuff that we just outsourced the work to a professional. Not only did we get a huge bill, we never really warmed to the decoration. It was great to see, but it left us cold. When the decorator asked me what cartoon character my daughter liked, so that he could make it the theme of the decorations, I almost laughed out loud. I mean, my kid is just one. I haven’t even exposed her to cartoons, how the hell is she supposed to have a favorite cartoon character.
This year, we shunned external help and set out doing it on our own. The husband learnt how to make balloon doublets and how to use color streamers for decoration, through youtube videos. We realized how difficult it was to tie up balloon (without using a string). It was painful, it was hassling, it was a hot summer day in Ahmedabad and I was getting more and more tense, wondering if we would even get the place ready for the party.
But in the end, it was worth it. It may not have been the most synchronised decoration. It was definitely not the most aesthetic. But every balloon had a story to say on how it was inflated and how it was tied up. We related to it.
We have more memories of this party, not just of the party, but all that which went into getting it organized. I hope these are the kind of parties we organize for my daughter, not ones which are designed for her, but ones which are owned by her. It is a bit like what a good friend (and volunteer for the party) remarked, “If I dont work for at least one month for my child’s party, I don’t really feel I have given them a party at all.”