As it is my birthday month, I decided that my next blog should be about the last birthday bash that we were able to host. Let’s go back to about four or five months ago, imagine, you’ve been planning your sons first birthday party for months and suddenly there is global panic because a virus of pandemic proportions is about to ravage the world. I am sure your first thought would be “oh no, my party” like it was your birthday party you had been fantasizing about for months.
I am sure many parents have this idea of what their baby’s first birthday would be like. I always wondered why parents had this extreme need to have these large blowout type parties for babies who will have no recollection of the event. It was not until we reached my sons 6-month mark that I was in full birthday planning mode – in my mind of course. The week leading up to 21 September 2019, I was Pinterest-ing ideas to mark the 6-month milestone with something special. A few days into my search, I realised that I had been taking this 6 month birthday celebration too far, so I reigned myself in and on the last moment settled on baking him a half cake to represent his half year on this earth.
Unfortunately, little man was only allowed to get his hands all full of chocolate and was not able to fully indulge as we were only planning on allowing luxuries once he turned one years old.
Once mom and dad had devoured the half-cake, the real planning began, and my mind was abuzz with theme ideas and plans for the main event. Now, one thing to note about moms is that we have a lot going on in our minds. We are constantly planning, considering, then we do some more research and have me-to-me meetings with ourselves about what we think will work best. Moreover, in my case, I tend to over think everything and consider every possible scenario, which is not always ideal as it adds a large stress factor to whatever I am planning.
Growing up, birthday parties had a big impact in my life. I was fortunate enough to have a birthday party of some sort (big or small) every year. Some might say having a birthday party every year was my parents spoiling me, but what they don’t realise is that from the age of three, my brother and I have shared a birthday party every single year. For those who do not know, my mother had given birth to my brother just 5 days before my third birthday. For many years, I was disappointed that the birthday present I received from my parents was a brother instead of like a doll or something. Every year since the birth of my brother, we had a shared birthday. It would always end up being a medium to large celebration as we would have all our family and friends over, have one celebration, two different themed cakes but it would always be the best time.
My fondest memories for the week leading up to our birthday, was my mother doing all the shopping for the party supplies and my father waiting at home after the shopping haul asking mom “how big is this party going to be”, which she would ignore and carry on doing her thing. My mother is very creative, she always had this way of making things happen. When it came to the night before our birthdays, my mom and I would be in the kitchen baking a large cake or cupcakes, decorating them, making little marshmallow cone treats, making our own moulded chocolates so that we could take our class some birthday treats. My mom would always bake and decorate a special themed cake for us, which was always the highlight of the party for me. I remember I had a Barney cake once with matching Barney chocolates and I was so proud of my mother creations… other kids were definitely very jealous. The best part of having sharing your birthday party with your brother is that your chances of receiving gifts increases. The last official birthday party my brother and I had shared was about 7 years ago, I had turned 21 and he had turned 18. I will admit, I was not always happy with the sharing arrangement, and I often questioned why I could not have my own party or whatever, but over the years, I have come to be more and more grateful for the gift of his life and have realised that sharing our milestones together has made our birthdays even more special.
When I was planning my son’s birthday, I could not help but reminisce on all those wonderful birthday memories and decided that those are the same kind of memories I want my son to have going through his life. So I had this idea that I would do like a DIY party the way my mom would of done. This DIY birthday idea would include me doing all the décor, snacks and eats, party packs as well as the set-up and all the other smaller details. Being an excellent planner, I was like, sure this is easy enough, I mean I have planned many event by myself, I even basically planned my own wedding (credit to mom for an amazing PA for the wedding plans).
I started brain storming possible themes and considered the kind of vibe we wanted to have and how many people we would invite. I began to develop a solid plan as to what I wanted, I discussed the ideas with my husband and we agreed. Then December came, and we had gone travelling so I put the plans on the back burner until we returned in January, also so that we could lick my wounds from all the Christmas spending. Upon our return from our holiday, I started looking more seriously at my different options. I drew up a budget and showed my husband. Then what I did not expect was that he had changed his mind and said that my DIY party idea would be too much effort on our part. I was devastated, I mean, I had been planning this for months – in my mind, and like he agreed just a short while ago. After discussions, I had abandoned most of the plan and we looked for alternatives.
Now, I have heard that kid parties cost a lot, but when looking at prices of what people were offering I was very shocked. During this party process, I had comes to terms with understanding that birthday parties are not like what they were when we were young (the 90’s). Back in the day, you would have a hand full of kids, some cake, sweets with artificial colours, mix-on cool drinks and a jumping castle or some yard games, and everyone would be happy. When it was time to leave, you and your friends would be all sweaty from playing and no one would want to go home.
We had then set out to find a baby-friendly venue to host the birthday party, which could provide all the basics – tables, chairs, some décor, shaded areas and a play area for small children. My husband had found a preschool in the area that fitted the criteria. To be honest, I was not completely sold on the idea because I was trying to be as low-key as possible, and stay with my DIY vibe, but I caved and thought, ok, I still have snacks, cake and party boxes to organise. We decided on a circus theme, as the colours and décor would be quite easy to do. Again, Pinterest is your best friend. I found a site where I could create my own invites that we would send out electronically to all our guests. This site also allowed me to explore my creative side, as I also created a milestone poster as well as the stickers for the party boxes.
I will not deny that I can be over the top when it comes to catering, like my mother; my fatal flaw is making sure that there is always enough food, which usually ends in there being too much food. For snacks, I decided on to just do one main table with two small cheese boards and crackers, chips, some sweets and cupcakes. I had also ordered some candyfloss from a vendor and we had borrowed a popcorn machine for the day, this all complemented the theme quite well. We also had customised t-shirts made – I made the design on the site I mentioned. I had designed a milestone poster that we would put up to brag a little about all our boy’s “achievements” thus far. And then for the children’s party boxes, I was very aware that there would be young babies, around my son’s age, in attendance, so keeping the snacks easy for all to consume was a little challenging. I had Flings, a lollipop, fruit juice and a fruit snack in the party box.
There was just another big project that I was excited for the most; the birthday cake. As I am a keen baker, I decided that I would create the cake myself. At first, it felt like a daunting task, and being a working mom; my time was very limited. I needed to find an easy way to do it whilst still accomplishing my goal of having the coolest cake. I wanted people to look at the cake and ask whom I ordered from; just so that I could tell them, it was I. I have previously worked with fondant, but I would say I am definitely on the beginner level. I definitely spent a lot of time at the bakeshop, and had to buy many utensils to make my cake dreams come true. I also decided that I would outsource the cake toppers, as I did not want to embarrass myself. Overall, it took a lot of research, Pinterest ideas and YouTube videos but mostly prayers, and I was quite satisfied with the outcome. I also planned to bake about 50 cupcakes for the event.
Two or three weeks before the event, Covid-19 started popping up on South African shores. I know by now, we have all seen how devastating the virus has been for the world, and I’m sorry to say that when we had those first two cases here, I was like, “ag no big deal, just let me have this party I have been planning all this time”. Those two weeks before the party started becoming increasing stressful. With our event hanging in the balance, we decided that we would have a one year old shoot to commemorate his birthday even if we were unable to have a birthday party. Luckily I was able to book the photographer who shot our maternity and new born shoots, so we knew we would be in good hands. We were very excited to do the photoshoot, that it almost did not matter whether we went through with the party or not. We called our venue to find out what would happen if we go into lock down, and if it happens when we will be able to have the party. It was also a very difficult decision to decide whether we were to continue to have the party because of concern for our safety and the safety and health of our guests. Ultimately, we decided to go ahead with the party. The venue had assured us that the place and the equipment (the kiddies’ ball pit), would be cleaned and sanitised prior to our arrival; and there would be sanitisers available, they had also provided sufficient crockery and cutlery, so no sharing of utensils. The most unfortunate part however, is that we had guest travelling from other provinces and another country, but because of the travel risk at the time, they were unable to attend.
Four months later, I look back now and think that I am happy that we made the decision to go forward with our plans. I realised, the reason we tend to have these big celebrations for our smallest family members is that we are celebrating the year that past, all the highs and lows, all the firsts and all the new experiences, and on the day of the party, I felt this relief, like “yes! I made it a whole year and I haven’t lost the plot”. There is so much to celebrate and to feel grateful for. A week later, we went into a hard lockdown, where we were confined to our homes for an undisclosed amount of time and we had to adapt to what we are calling now “the new normal”. For the past 4 months, we had not been able to have any social gatherings; we have been permitted to only buy essentials and still, at this point are not allowed to visit our loved ones. My husband celebrated his birthday during the lockdown, and it seems I will too. My son’s birthday was our last celebration with those closest to us and it was such a memorable day. Luka had the best time. He had so much fun with his family and friends and he had his first real taste of sweets and cake. He basically had to drag him into the car to go home.
I do not do this often, but I will admit, my husband was right and I have to give him kudos for deciding on a venue instead of having it at home. Having a set party time ensured the kids got tired, we did not have to spend hour’s set-up then taking down and cleaning up, there was also so much more space for all of our guests.
As I approach my birthday (shout out to my fellow Leo’s), except for feeling so much older already, this lockdown has been teaching me how much we took our “normal” for granted, and that we should embrace the various challenges life throws at us and enjoy the moments that we are given. In addition, if I cannot celebrate my birthday, I am staying 27 for another year.
Site used to create printables: https://www.canva.com
Photographer including props for cake smash: https://www.facebook.com/mishprattphotography/
Event Planner: https://www.facebook.com/chalkevents/