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Changing Party Traditions

Unknown Tuesday, June 4, 2013 ,
Contrary to what Elton John sang, sorry has never been the hardest word for me.  Instead what I really struggle with is to tell people ‘no’.  It has always been a problem for me although, if I think hard enough, I believe that I can trace where it all started.

It was at a friend’s birthday party, more precisely when his mother came round holding a plate of stuffed eggs.  I’d never tasted one but from the smell I knew that the last place I wanted to put it was in my mouth.  Yet my tentative shake of the head wasn’t enough to deter her and, if anything, it seemed to strengthen her resolve to ensure that I ate one.

Eventually I gave in, took a bite and made the appropriate appreciative signs.  Satisfied, she turned to her next victim as I quickly removed the remaining contents from my mouth.

Soon I realised that refusing stuffed eggs at birthday parties was a no-no – “eat them, they’re good for you” – no matter how hard I tried to stonewall whoever happened to be doling them out.

Thankfully for them, my kids haven’t had to go through the same experience.  Not because stuffed eggs have gone out of fashion but because the nature of birthday parties has changed dramatically.  No one seems to hold them in their living rooms anymore, passing round home-made sandwiches and playing donkey’s tail, which were staples of my childhood.

Instead everyone is turning to fast food joints and similar establishments offering packaged deals.  It is, of course, a matter of convenience for parents.  You don’t have to worry about preparing the food, entertaining a dozen or so screaming kids and then cleaning up after everyone has left.  So what if the food isn’t that healthy and the entertainment rather forced; the kids certainly seem to love it and ultimately it is them you’re trying to please.

Although that sounds like a criticism, it isn’t meant to be.  I’d love to be one of those parents who is able to organise themed parties with wonderfully imaginative food and games prepared for those attending.  Yet – and I realise that this might sound bad – the truth is that I have got neither the time nor, I suspect, the aptitude for that.

I believe that most parents are the same.  What many seem to do in order to compensate for any latent guilt is attempt to prepare an intricate birthday cake in the shape of Thomas the Train (for boys), Peppa Pig (girls) or whatever catches their particular child's fancy.  It is the Cake Boss phenomenon where Buddy seems to have inspired a generation of parents to try their hands at artistic cake making.

Inevitably some succeed better than others but that hardly matters.  What is truly important is the memories that it creates both for parent and child.  There are few more rewarding feelings than seeing the look of delight on your child's face; their joy at the realisation that their mother (or father) did this amazing thing.  Just for them!

Because while the nature of parties has changed the over-riding emotion remains the same; parents want to see their children happy and these, in turn, want confirmation that they're loved.  And whether it is stuffed eggs or a cake, nothing says that like something you've prepared yourself.

This article originally appeared in the Spring issue of the magazine Growing Up in Malta.

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Copyright 2010 Paul Grech: Writer