Birthdays from Hell

Birthdays from hell. I remember you all so well. There's something going on with birthdays – they've morphed over the last 30 odd years. They used to be about a table full of brightly coloured jellies in oranges and lollies of absolutely no nutritional value and then a run round the back yard with your mates followed by a piece of over-coloured homemade cake in a tissue before being booted off home. Some stress may have been generated tossing the hundreds and thousands over the buttered bread - it was hard to tell – everything looked so easy in a kaftan with a bottle of Marque Vue under one arm.

These days throwing a birthday for a kid requires a meth addiction to deal with the full time job and the late night cooking and house decorating and then signing up at the local escort agency for a few weeks just to pay for the goody bags. Seriously. Put your hand up if you were the one who invented goody bags. Congratulations. And now I'm afraid we're going to have to kill you. I know you've increased sales in gift shops globally by at least eleventy trillion dollars but - what were you thinking?!

In certain suburbs in Auckland there is serious competition over the goody bags and anxious Mums have cashed in education funds to pay for them and then taken up smoking to deal with their guilt. I wish I were kidding. This week alone I received an emergency email from one such Mum who was locked in a bathroom smoking while friends of her daughter prowled the perimeters for goody bags and compared caterers. The surprise birthday she'd lovingly spent hours and cash on had almost to be called off when the birthday girl discovered her evil plan and tearfully begged her to call it off – which she luckily ignored as the birthday was eventually enjoyed by everyone. Except my friend. No one seemed to notice as she desperately scrawled emergency escape plans on loo paper and flew paper planes out the window with the words 'Help Me' to the seagulls outside. Her week of birthday hell had started when she'd lovingly baked a birthday cake for a student and walked into the classroom with candles ablaze and in joyous song -only to discover the girl was a Jehovah's Witness. Yup. I'm all with the Jehovah's on this one. All birthdays should be banned as ungodly affairs. They can only lead to spontaneous outbreaks of joy and lifts in self esteem and happiness in the best scenarios and can be mega stress bombs when it all goes bad. And they're right. Bad things happen around birthdays in the bible. Herod and Pharaoh celebrate birthdays – that didn't go so well for John the Baptist and the chief baker got hung at the other one. Maybe he made a fruit cake? Who knows? It should be pointed out that those guys were probably fairly evil on a daily basis rather than saving it all up just for their birthdays and I haven't seen much evidence of birthday cake leading to an outbreak of hangings or beheadings at many of the kids' birthday parties I've attended but it's only a matter of time.

My child is still traumatised from my efforts at cross cultural birthdayness when I decided that she couldn't be a Latina child without a piñata and that it was only right that I should make it after a few vinos the night before her party. It was supposed to be a fairy princess. The mad Latin described it as a 'very troubled transvestite' and the girl called it the 'Scary Fairy' which was not promising. The image of children subsequently bashing her to death and all her internal organs (in this case $2 shop toys and lollies) spilling to the ground, is still burned in my memory and resulted in a paramedic rescue attempt by the birthday girl and tears all round. Yup. When the JW's come calling I'm so signing up. I think I know someone who'll come with me. As soon as I can dig her out of her bunker.

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