The art of silly happy

‘Mom, do you really think that you can pull off this party without a jumping castle?’ asked my son Benjamin worriedly, as he perused my festive preparations.

‘Yes,’ I responded firmly, stringing lights up in our back garden. ‘I think you’ll find it is the rare 36-year birthday party that fizzles due to the lack of a jumping castle. Remember, most of my friends are in their 30s and 40s.’

‘Indeed,’ said Andreas, passing by with a crate of glassware from the bottle store. ‘Technically, I don’t think your mother and I are even allowed on jumping castles any more. Isn’t there a maximum weight issue?’

(I thwacked him with the remaining light wire in response. Honestly, how long does it take a man to realise that sizeist jokes, even when they incorporate both of you, are never appropriate?)

Last year was the first time I have thrown a birthday party for over 5 years. Recently, I have fallen into that dreadfully Scroogey adult habit of not telling anyone it’s my birthday, and telling those who remember of their own volition not to fuss... only to sulk all day because ‘no one loves me.’ (Oh don’t judge... I am willing to bet that 1 in 3 of you do the same thing.)

So this year, to break the habit, I decided to throw a proper Saturday night birthday bash. The boys were mesmerised.

‘Since when do parents throw birthday parties?’ asked Joey, as he licked my icing bowl. ‘Are you really going to put 36 candles on the cake? There’ll be no room for Smarties!’

Indeed, I have been so mired in children’s parties for the last decade, that while I am a dab hand at making little racing cars out of Boudoir biscuits, round Liquorice All-Sorts and half Jelly Babies... I had completely forgotten how to throw a grown up birthday party.

How to be a grown up

I phoned my friend Rachel in panic.

‘Quick, how do you entertain a roomful of grown-ups?’I asked. ‘I am pretty sure they aren’t going to want to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey.’

‘Most definitely not,’ she replied, firmly. (I was a little disappointed here. I secretly LOVE Pin the Tail on the Donkey.) ‘And no Charades. Just make sure the food and drink is nice, and I think you’ll find grown-ups can entertain themselves.’

A clever woman, our Rachel. The boys also had a lot of advice to add.

‘Don’t worry if not everyone comes,’ Joey informed me, sagely. ‘There are always some who RSVP but don’t arrive.’

‘And try not to just play with your best friend,’ added Benjamin. ‘It’s rude, you should try and play a bit with everyone at the party if it’s your party.’

Clearly my boys have taken after their father in the freakishly-wise-beyond-their years department.

By the time the Big Day rolled around, it was all feeling oppressively grown up. Right until my friend Lili phoned at around midday.

‘Party, party, PARTY!’ she yelled down the phone. ‘So excited! See you in.... 8 hours!’

And she slammed the phone down.

It was a significant moment for me. Because I realised that, despite being middle-aged, my friends and I are impressively, nay even notoriously, childish. And later that night, as my party passed in a haze of sparklers, air guitar, shrieking belly laughter and ‘I can dance sillier than you’ competitions... Andreas came over to give me a huge hug.

‘Happy birthday, my love,’ he said. ‘May we grow up never to take ourselves seriously.’ And with that, he dropped an ice block down my cleavage and ran away giggling.

To festive fabulousness.... may we teach our children the art of being silly happy, and may we never lose the trick of it ourselves.

Do we owe it to our children to be happy?

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