Turning 3 during a lockdown
Covid-19 has led us to realize that children’s birthdays should be entirely for the benefit of their hard-working parents
Three years ago, while booking long-haul airline tickets, my husband and I picked a date, seemingly at random, and said: “That sounds like a good date. Let’s book it."
A week later, we realized that the date rang a bell because it was our first daughter’s first birthday. We felt guilty at first because other parents were hosting elaborate first-birthday parties with magicians and Baby Shark themes and four-tiered cakes and personalized return gifts. We justified it to ourselves—we want her to be a traveller, what an apt way to celebrate; she’s only 1, she won’t know.
We managed to get a onesie that said “It’s My Birthday" and headed to the airport. On the plane, we told the flight attendant it was our daughter’s first birthday and while landing, the pilot wished her on the speaker and I teared up over the head of my peacefully sleeping daughter.
Back in Mumbai, at the next birthday party we attended, there was a short zip line set up in a posh Bandra lawn and the party ended when the child came down from his sugar high and broke into tears and the parents looked ready to collapse into the well-manicured bushes. At least this party was in the evening and had the decency to have a full bar. The most painful are the parties hosted in soft play areas early on a weekend morning, with parents forced to sleepily eat cheese sandwiches and drink orange juice.
Last week, our daughter turned 3, during a complete lockdown. Friends messaged to wish her and express how frustrating it must be to celebrate without a real celebration and we agreed, saying we would have a bigger celebration once things reopened. Secretly, though, we were relieved. I just don’t have any interest in figuring out a themed menu for a birthday party. So, the night before her birthday, we made a cake with her and put it in the oven. After she fell asleep, we rummaged through our closets to find some gifts to wrap—I found a book of stickers we hadn’t yet given her and wrapped it in the pages of an old issue of Vogue.
While we were putting it together and taking the inevitable walk down memory lane that parents do on their children’s birthday eves, I furrowed my brow and asked my husband what we had done for our second daughter’s first birthday.
“I just can’t remember," I said.
“We…," he started. Then stopped. “I have no idea. I don’t remember either. We must have done something."
“Did we have a party?"
“No, I think we went somewhere. Did we go to Goa?"
Poor second kids, especially when born soon after the first, really do get the short end of the stick. I realize now how I managed to be unsupervised enough to eat some naphthalene balls as a child—I was the second child (but that’s a bigger topic for another day).
Children’s birthdays, at least until they are old enough to complain, should be entirely for the benefit of their hard-working parents. So now we have decided that not celebrating birthdays extravagantly will be our convenient family birthday tradition. We will use the dates to travel or to stay home and have our own lockdowns in the future.
Maybe there will come a time when the children will resent us for not having picture albums filled with memories of perfectly planned birthday parties and vintage chalkboards displaying their ages but I think they will eventually just be grateful that we didn’t turn them into the kind of adults who believe in birthday months.
Diksha Basu is the author of The Windfall (Bloomsbury). Her new book, Destination Wedding (Bloomsbury), will be out June-end.
FIRST PUBLISHED06.06.2020 | 09:40 AM IST