On Benny’s previous birthdays we didn’t organize anything. We didn’t even buy him a present because he was too young to know any better. But in the end, we found that impromptu parties and presents were thrust upon us. Not that we complained, of course. Its nice when friends roll up at your place, bringing cakes for kids, presents for Benny, and beer for the adults, and even nicer that your kid’s birthday is an excuse to see all your favorite friends.
Benny is now much more aware of what’s going on these days, however. He knows that his birthday’s coming up. He also knows that birthday’s are generally marked by a cake with candles to blow out. But, because we never make any big fuss about presents and because he doesn’t go to preschool and thus doesn’t hear all the birthday-chat from his peers, he isn’t anticipating presents or any of that kind of fuss. All he thinks of when anyone talks about his birthday is the cake and most importantly those candles.
So, during our most recent discussion on the topic, Brad and I finally decided that to mark his birthday this year, we’ll go out for dinner, take a cupcake and some candles, and have a little party for three. I know this might cause raised eyebrows amongst friends and family. “Wont he want a party?” they’ll worry on his behalf.
And maybe I should worry. Will Benny be forever damaged by such party-pooper parents? Will he be one of those kids that yearns for the presents and toys and paper hats he never received on birthdays past?
Perhaps he will.
But, I don’t know, if I were to throw him a party and make a big birthday fuss, he might end up with a deranged mother and, let’s face it, that would be a whole lot worse than missing out on a few birthday parties.
First off, I hate trying to shop these days. Battling my way through New York crowds to seek out presents for Benny gives me chills. Second, big groups of kids make me wince and grind my teeth. The idea of hosting a party full of sugared up four year olds make me want to cry. Third, all my spare creative energies these days goes into my writing. If I had to spend hours attempting to bake a Thomas the Tank Engine birthday cake, I would be livid – and I dread to imagine what my appalling baking skills would muster up as an excuse for a cake.
Then there’s all the waste and needless consumption associated with Birthdays which makes me so sad and despairing about the world we live in. The pretty paper thrown in the trash, the crappy plastic toys (labored over by third world workers and probably played with once by the recipient), the popped balloons, the half-eaten cookies and cakes.
Worst of all, though, is the idea that I’m creating another wanting and needy consumer. If Benny sees birthday’s as a time for a zillion presents and big parties, is this what he’ll want all the time? Will he never be happy unless he’s getting something new, something brightly wrapped, something he’ll probably discard when a desire for something even newer rolls around? And thanks to the over-consumption of our world and the consequences this over-consumption are wreaking – rising sea levels, floods, financial slumps, disease related to pollution – Benny may in the future not be able to have all new things he desires. I will have created a desiring consumer who is unable to consume.
Okay, okay, I’m not sure how I’ve just went from a light-hearted chat about a four year old’s birthday party to global warming, disease, and economic despair. But you can see what I mean, can’t you? A kid’s party might send me to the brink of madness.
Ah well, Benny will get his candles and cupcake in a couple of weeks. And when birthday number 5 rolls around next year and Benny had been more sucked in by the consumption crazy society in which we live and demands presents and parties, I’ll probably have do a little therapy and get over my birthday anxieties and party phobias.
Until then, I’ll take advantage of his blissful ignorance and enjoy the moment.