Sunday, July 7, 2013

Party Political

It's been party central around our place this week.  My children's birthdays fall within a week of each other.

When I was pregnant with my second child I was adamant that it would be desperately unfair to condemn them to a lifetime of shared birthday parties.  But now that the hormones have subsided and the practicalities have emerged it is blatantly obvious that having two parties in a week is completely unrealistic.  

Besides which it's good to teach them to share.

My kids are so very privileged.  They have so much - so many toys, so many people who love them, so many opportunities, so many friends.

Showing them that they don't need to be precious about a party is a good thing.  

Of course the ease with which this goes down may change over the years.  They are still just preschoolers with many of the same friends and interests.  I can envisage a day when my 12 year old girl is not going to want her stinky 10 year old brother and his friends at her disco-model-makeover party, or whatever other dire, gender-specific theme she thinks she'll be having.  

And like he'd want to go anyway, gross.

I've decided that when they get to this stage that they can just alternate years.  One year can be my daughters party and my son can just have a couple of mates to hang out with, the next year reverse.  Simple.  In theory.

I don't actually think kids need to have parties every year.  I mean I love a good birthday (especially my own).  But at the risk of making myself sound older than I am we never had parties every year back in my day.

Still I wonder if this is just another good-in-theory notion that will be thrown out like so much left over cake when we actually get there.

I mean sometimes you have your own notions about what you want to do as a parent then you rethink and realise they just aren't such a great idea after all.

Or sometimes the force of the majority just beats you down.  Princess fairy dolls are a case in point.

This year my daughter asked for pass the parcel at the party.  It was the first time she'd made a request for any sort of party game.  Oh, well last year she wanted to do the Hokey Pokey, but that's more of a dance than a game really isn't it?

I have really fond memories of pass the parcel from my own childhood.  I'm not sure if I ever had it at my own parties (probably) but I certainly remember it from friend's parties and it was an exquisite mix of excitement, anticipation and envy.

But to invoke the phrase back in my day once more, the notion of everyone's a winner (baby) had not yet been realised back then.  Nor had it made the Top Ten.

No, back in may day there were like four prizes and a whole lot of paper.  And as we sat crossed legged in a circle, the present being passed gingerly like some sort of unexploded grenade, it was almost unbearable to think that the music might stop on the person before you.  Or (worse!) the person after.  Holding on to that squishy, over-stuffed, newspapery mass just one beat longer than you should, but one beat less than would have the other kids groaning "Come ON."  And then.  If you got a chance to unwrap a layer....would it hold a prize?....would it hold the prize.  

Oh, the delicious tension of it.

No, it's become de rigueur that every child must get not only a turn, but also a prize.

This is just another thing that I swore I would not cave to.  Ridiculous, I huffed.  Not at our parties, I assured myself.

But, as my kids prepared lolly bags and the general crazy of birthday week took it's grip my resolve weakened and I found myself seeking assurance.  It's okay if not everybody gets a prize isn't it?  Do you think the kids expect it?  What if they don't get a prize and lose their shit?  Oh bugger it.  One prize for every child so I don't have to think about pass the parcel any more.

But as I stood at the dining table up to my elbows in wrapping paper trying to calculate how many layers I had done, how many children were coming and if there would be any random siblings I should allow for, I realised the parents of the 70's had the right idea.

Just grab some newspaper and wrap up a few bits and bobs with one half decent something in the middle.  Then at the party grab a drink, and most probably a cigarette, close your eyes and jab at the stereo.  

When it's over it's over.  

Too bad if little Johnny missed out.  No one cares because little Timmy, Tommy and Suzie missed out too.  A privileged few made off with some loot and as I recall no one cried.  We all just thought those kids were lucky as hell, and perhaps somehow especially charmed.

Our parents didn't soothe us or try and make things even next time.  They were too busy drinking boxed chardonnay and eating deviled eggs at the adult table.

Not only are we making life harder for ourselves by being so attentive to our children's whims and desires, but we're making life harder for them by not teaching them to just get on with it in life.

And not only that but we are ruining a perfectly good party game along with it.  Pass the parcel just isn't the same without the suspense.

Yes, the politics of pass the parcel has a powerful affinity with modern parenting.

So while I'm not yet robust enough to take on the expectations of a dozen other kids, not quite tough enough to rock pass the parcel old school, I reckon next year we might give it a miss because I'm just not down with the everyone's a winner mentality.

(Totally Delicious Egg and Dairy Free) Chocolate Cake

Serves 24

3 cups self-raising flour
2/3 cup cocoa
2 cups caster sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups water
2/3 cup canola oil

2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla essence
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Sift flour, cocoa, caster sugar and salt into a large bowl.
Add remaining ingredients and combine well.

Pour mixture into a greased cake tin.
Bake until cooked through.

I baked this cake with the kids for the party.  It's a great recipe to cook with kids because no creaming or beating is required - just a whole lot of stirring in a giant bowl.  This seems to make up for the lack of egg cracking.  Plus the batter is delicious for licking.  

There is no baking time on the original recipe (sourced at Best Recipes) but my cupcakes cooked in 15 minutes and the large cake took about 55 minutes - you'll just need to keep checking.  
It's a beautifully moist and dense cake that doesn't suffer from the lack of eggs and butter at all.  


Kids parties. Discuss.

Listen to: Hot Chocolate Every 1's a Winner

Image Licensed Under Creative Commons