Today marks the third-anniversary of when my wife and I bade a fond farewell to any chance of getting a decent night’s sleep ever again. Or, to put it another way, it’s Isaac’s third birthday.
Yes, shortly after 4:30pm, exactly three years ago to the day, this nocturnal miscreant graced us with his shriveled presence, amid screams from my good lady wife, and the dulcet tones of Noel Edmonds in the background (Deal or No Deal was on the television, just in case you thought the bearded weirdo had crept into Leighton Hospital, to provide running commentaries on childbirth: “We know what we don’t want to see, but let’s find out, after a break…”).
To say Isaac has been hard work ever since, would be something of an understatement; but he can also be utterly adorable, and with a flick of his Donald Trump hair, and a flash of that cheeky grin, he can usually get away with most things. We wouldn’t change him for the world (probably).
Then, on Monday, Ollie turns seven. In his own unique way, Ollie can sometimes be an insufferable little shit too, but we also love him dearly – and equally. Well, I say ‘equally’, but of course you never love your children equally, because you always have a favourite at any given time (https://middlerageddad.com/2015/05/01/fighting-like-cats-and-blogs/),. Still, you get the idea.
Having two children so close together (in terms of birthdays, not their ages), can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, we get to celebrate their birthdays at the same time. However, on the flip side of that, we have to celebrate their birthdays at the same fucking time.
Ok, it’s nice that they both have their birthdays in May – which is frankly a far better month to celebrate your birthday than either mine (February) or my wife’s (November) – but it can be a monumental nightmare to hide, and afford, two piles of presents at the same time. That challenge, however, is nothing compared with the task of simultaneously coordinating two children’s birthday parties.
On the one hand, you could argue that a joint birthday party would be the ideal solution, and would get the whole torrid affair over with in one afternoon, but the boys were born four years apart, and want very different things from their parties – even though, this year, both events will take place at the same venue, and will be catered for by the same person (my wife).
Isaac’s party took place last weekend, while Ollie’s is next weekend. I know what you’re thinking and, yes, it is rather strange to not have either of their parties on the actual weekend of their birthdays, but that is for one very good reason: Ollie initially insisted that he should take precedence as the older child, and have his party this weekend, while Isaac would have to move his party to another time (because Mummy and Daddy had said there was no fucking way they were hosting both in the same weekend).
So, having booked Isaac’s party for the weekend before his birthday (because, frankly, so long as he got a party, it could have been in January for all he cared), Ollie then realised – as did Daddy – that tomorrow is the National League North Play-Off Final, and just in case Stockport County achieved the unthinkable and actually reached the final (which, inevitably, they did not), Ollie and Daddy would be otherwise engaged – and Daddy would be far too hungover on Sunday to face his own children, let alone other people’s.
As a result, Ollie’s party was immediately postponed to the Sunday after his birthday, and we now face the rather unusual situation of having their actual birthday weekend without either party taking place (and no football to go to). Frankly, this weekend is turning out to be quite the disappointment – although I do still have Eurovision to get drunk to, and ridicule, tomorrow night.
Isaac’s party last weekend, involved fourteen toddlers (and a few older siblings) running around and screaming for an hour, whilst falling off various pieces of play equipment – including a giant bouncy castle – at our local leisure centre in Sandbach. This was followed by an hour of party food and games, throughout which Isaac had a wonderful time socialising with his friends:
My wife, party planner extraordinaire, was in charge of most of the arrangements (booking the venue, invites, balloons, food and drink, cake, party bags….), whereas my only jobs were to prepare a playlist of party music (that the children could listen to whilst eating, then dance to afterwards), and to not behave like a total dick at the party itself. Both of these, inevitably, were a struggle.
First of all, whilst I like to think of my music collection as varied (even, dare I say it, eclectic? – although anyone who claims their music tastes are ‘eclectic’, is generally a tit), apparently many of the two-thousand songs on my iPod are not suitable for toddlers.
Well, at least according to my wife, who dismissed the first three play-lists that I came up with: Celtic guitar-based folk; Soft rock ballads; and Popular film and television themes of the 1980’s. I tried to suggest that children of all ages will appreciate Roxette, and if they haven’t seen a single episode of Airwolf, then their parents are doing an appalling job of raising them; however, yet again, my opinion was dismissed. Thank goodness I went thought that weird Little Mix and Taylor Swift phase a while back (which, in all honesty, is ongoing), otherwise the whole shebang would have been utterly kiboshed.
Having been a father for almost exactly seven years, I like to now consider myself relatively comfortable when surrounded by groups of young children (I implore you to not read too much into that sentence), so long as they follow my three golden rules:
- Don’t wipe food, vomit, or faeces on me;
- Don’t shriek directly into my ear from close range;
- Don’t call me anything derogatory, like ‘poopyhead’.
Sadly, that’s pretty much all young children want to do at birthday parties (with the possible exception of the shit-smearing), so it was inevitable that I was going to have a pretty miserable time of it. Of course, if any of the parents who were actually at the party happen to read this, none of what I just wrote is directed towards your child – who, I have to say, was an absolute delight.
I’m joking, obviously. Not only was the party a relative success, but the only child to step out of line at any point was our own – although he stepped out of line at pretty much every possible opportunity. From the time his first guest arrived, he more or less refused to interact with anyone (only pausing to briefly acknowledge their existence if they brought him a present); spent no more than thirty seconds on the massive bouncy castle we’d paid for; and sulked when everyone had the audacity to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him. I mean, the sheer nerve of some children.
Actually, the only time he perked up, was when Daddy’s music came on. #win
Fortunately, Ollie’s party next weekend is likely to be less mentally and physically draining. He naturally wants a football party – because that’s all he talks about these days – followed by lots of food and games. Essentially, he wants what I want from a birthday party (except for the alcohol, topless waitresses, and a nap afterwards), but am not allowed, because society dictates that I must act my age.
Why? Why can’t a man of nearly forty have a kick around with his mates, play ‘tag’, then eat his own body-weight in cocktail sausages and cake? Why can’t my friends bring me Star Wars toys, and sing to me? It’s just not fair.
The answer, of course, is that men can have all those things, but we have to refer to them as ‘stag parties’, and rather than have them once a year, we usually only get to have them once, and end up married shortly afterwards.
And no party is worth that.
(just kidding, dear)