So over Barbie
Tracy Engelbrecht, reverent lover of all things birthday, finds out that tween birthdays are a whole new ball game.
It’s five more sleeps to Layla’s birthday party. She will be 8 years old. The excitement level is somewhere up in the stratosphere and every day closer takes the ear-piercing squealing up a notch.

And that’s just me we’re talking about. Seriously, I love birthdays. I revel in the whole process – choosing just the right prezzie that lights up the little face, decorating the house with streamers and balloons, deciding just how many hours beforehand it’s safe to put out the Nik Naks. 

The sweaty palms and mild angina brought on by herding gaggles of sugar’ed up tween girls away from sharp edged furniture. Wiping up the blood when one breaks free from the herd. Counting the minutes until the guests arrive and then counting the seconds until they leave. The amazed relief when it’s all over and your house is still standing, although you probably aren’t

I did have a small issue with the theme. She had her heart set on Bratz. She knows how I feel about the creatures.  ‘But Layla,’ I whined, ‘you know those buggy eyes disturb me. And they don’t have any noses. That can’t be right. How do they breathe? What about Hannah or Barbie instead, hmmm?’ 

‘Oh Mommy,’ she sighs. ‘First of all, I’m so over Barbie. Too frilly. And you worry too much. They’re only cartoon characters, not real people. So they don’t need to breathe and it doesn’t matter if they look funny.’

Stymied by her logic, as usual. So noseless alien freaks it is then.

Then the cake. I used to bake my own but happily have seen the error of my ways. I can bake reasonably well but can’t decorate for shit. This is fine when it’s only us – what’s a little smooshed caramel among friends - but when you have to cut the thing in front of Other People, it gets a little embarrassing.

My efforts in previous years have ranged from mildly lopsided to This-Isn’t-Working-Quick-Who’s-Going-To-Spar. The cake has now been ordered from a very clever lady who bakes pretty cakes that don’t taste like old boots with icing. I asked if she could sneak a nose onto Cloe the Blonde Brat, just to make me feel better, but she was having none of it. You don’t mess with artistic vision, apparently.

So, there will be pass-the-parcel, musical chairs (if I can find enough chairs), messy cookie-decorating, a safe and universally acceptable non-Barbie DVD, pizza, hot dogs and numerous reminders not to screech quite so loudly.

Conspicuous in their absence will be a jumping castle, a pony, hovering professional event planners and party packs at two hundred bucks a pop. Ditto sushi and champers for the mothers-who-won’t-leave. If they want to stay, they get Nik Naks and apple juice in paper cups like everyone else.

I’ve heard moms complain that birthday parties have become too big, too flashy, too competitive, with everyone trying to outdo everyone else.  I guess I don’t move in the right social circles then, because it’s never occurred to me that our little homemade sugar-fests might be considered outdated and boring. I was almost tempted to feel inadequate but then I remembered that we always have a great time and when the birthday girl goes to sleep, eventually, it’s with a big sticky grin on her face. 

If I’m still alive on Sunday morning, I’ll let you know how it went.

Oh, did I mention that it’s a sleepover this year? How afraid should I be, do you think?

What do you do for kids’ birthdays?

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