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There Were 15 Nine Year Olds in My House - A Birthday Party

By Carol Duncan - 31st October 2010

Just the mere mention of a child's birthday party is enough to send me into a sweat.

I hate them. No, really.

Over the last 9 years, we've had the usual schedule of small birthday parties for our boys, but for the last two years we've given them the option of a birthday party at home OR a weekend away.  Being boys who love an adventure and new places, they've quite sensibly opted for the weekend away.  So we've gone fishing at the Manning River, we've stayed in a cabin with wallabies in the Barrington Tops, off to Canberra ... fine, fun things that all four of us enjoy.

This year it came to a screaming halt. The screaming was mine.

"Mama? Can I have a birthday party at home this year?" Mr soon-to-be-9 enquired. 

"Oh, um ... err ... are you sure? You wouldn't like to go away for the weekend?"

"Nah, I reckon it'd be fun to get the kids around here again."

Okay. Well, I understand all about the importance of the child's social standing at school and so on, so a party it was.

However, I simply refuse to pay an exorbitant amount of money for themed parties, clowns, face-painters, magicians, musicians, hookers and blow. Not going to happen.  I will, however, spend a goodly amount of money on awesome loot bags for all attendees, great food for kids (no fairy bread here, thank you very much), and great food (and wine) for the adults.

Here comes another area of my birthday party anxiety:The Dump & Run Parent.

It would seem, certainly after this year's experience, that this is de rigeur for kids' birthday parties. The parent chauffeurs their precious offspring to the front door, and then backs away as fast as they can without going base over apex on their way to ... wherever it is that they go to ... telling me they'll see me later. Yes, but when?!? I have never done this. Should I? 

Suddenly, I'm in charge of 15 nine year old kids all charged up and ready to go nuts in my loungeroom, my kitchen, my bathroom, my sons' bedrooms, MY bedroom, the verandahs - front and back ... and I'm amazed by how much bigger they look in my loungeroom than when I see them all each afternoon at school.  They're huge.  All of them. They've suddenly grown to be at least seven feet tall.

And then it rains. Not just a little. Huey sends down enough of the wet stuff to keep the Murray-Darling irrigators in business for several hundred years to come.

Housebound. Did I tell you there were fifteen nine year olds in my house?

Credit is due to my inlaws, both retired teachers who love these sorts of gatherings of small people and are wizards at games to entertain kids of all ages. Suddenly an enormous package appeared. Pass-the-parcel. Fabulously hand-crafted by my Russian mother-in-law; each layer cleverly identified for each of the kids, and a gift in each layer for the unwrappee tasked with performing some weird party trick for the amusement of his/her peers.

Credit is also due to those parents who didn't 'dump and run'. Mostly these were friends of mine with kids that we know. But there was also a mum who stayed with her additional needs* child. A beautiful, sunny boy who goes to school in his wheelchair, ably assisted by a carer. A boy who both of my sons adore. A boy who has trouble communicating clearly verbally, who can't hear well, but whose face and smile and hilarious nature make it clear that - at least on the inside - he's doing just fine. I don't think he is terribly impaired intellectually, but certainly physically he has a host of difficulties. My son had him sit next to him to help with the unwrapping of gifts.

Also at the party was one of the children of Sudanese refugees who attend our school. His parents don't drive so my husband picked him up from his home and then the inlaws dropped him off. He came to my rescue with the strangely shaped balloons that I simply couldn't blow up. Neither could my hubby. Nor our kids.  

I don't know what criteria my kids use when they make friends, I think they just hang out with like-minded souls. They certainly don't apply the prejudices that most adults do.

I admit I had a glass of wine to see me through the afternoon. Okay, maybe two glasses. But here's what I learned:

My kids are awesome. And the friends they have chosen are awesome. Some of them we have known since the first day of kindergarten. Some we have come to know over the last four years.  They are smart, funny, caring, splendid children and I adore them.  They are welcome in our home any day.

My wish for these kids is that they stick together, take care of each other, enjoy each other's company, and continue to return to our home well into their adulthood. I know they'll have their ups and downs, they'll face their challenges, fall in and out of like and love, share their first drinks, smokes and ... things.(Oh come on, I don't have to explain, do I?)

But my heart looks forward to seeing these young people taking up even more space in my loungeroom in the years to come.

To my darling sons - you are wonderful and I am so proud of you.

Love Mama.

P.S. * I asked his mum about this article before publishing it, to ensure it was okay. She asked me to change 'disabled' to 'additional needs', which of course I was more than happy to do. Here is part of her email to me: "If you would like to leave the story below as is, that's okay, though I prefer the words "additional needs" than disabled.  It is commonly called "special needs" now.  Education, eh.  Better than "What is your son's defect?" as an elderly man asked me once.  I couldn't help myself, I had quick wit that day, I said "Nothing" questioningly.  (My son is there right next to me!!  He has feelings too!  Not that he knows what some words mean at 9, though I'm informing the inquirer, in my own subtle way, he he)..."

Comments (4)

CarolDuncan's picture

Ha! Thank you! I hope you

Ha! Thank you! I hope you still think that once you've met them!

Leading the way

I really loved this post Carol. I think your kids could teach a few adults a thing or two.

CarolDuncan's picture

The way it should be ...

I couldn't be prouder of my kids ... except maybe when one lets rip a smelly fart in Big W ... other than that, they're good boys. Boys!

I'm impressed that your grade 2 girl's mother actually STOPPED THE CAR before off-loading her.

And you know what, when I look around my friends, family and colleagues ... well, what an assortment of humanity's quirks we are!

pipbern's picture

Dump and Run

I've never left the two boys at parties but have started to leave 11yo at her parties, probably as of 10?

Without fail my 8yo will be the one that falls off the swing and breaks an arm or skin his knee and have an apocalyptic styled melt down, so best I stay. I was at a party today (Halloween- far out, any excuse for a party) and I saw a Mum drop the kid off, didn't even get out of the car, just watched as she walked up to the door. The girl is in grade two. Man.

Your sons sound so lovely and I love the fact that a friend is a friend.

Sam has some great friends like that too. Having ASD he has some, shall we say, quirks but the real friends, the ones their parents should be proud of, take him for him, warts and all.


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