Kids’ birthdays and the adults growing up with them

 As our granddaughters and grandsons hit their individual milestones their parents find a way to mark their birthdays with age appropriate birthday parties that conform to the North American concepts of birthday celebrations for children. I continue to find it so very interesting to watch the celebrations, comparing and contrasting the change with each successive year.  It isn’t  just about watching the kids grow and change.  As much fun as watching the children is taking note of the evolution of the type of parties organized for them. The ways in which the parents and grandparents change over the year and their approach to the birthday event is also noteworthy.

For instance when our two eldest grandchildren, both girls, passed the 9 year milestone I noticed a less than subtle change in the behaviours of her ladyship at the birthday events.    A momentary blip?  hmm… I got thinking about what I’ve observed in the other adults who circle about.

Photo by Snapwire on

The first few years of parties saw the parents of the guests, especially the moms, doing the helicopter hovering that sociologists seem to take great delight in criticizing.  As the age of the celebrant and the invitees progresses the collected moms tend to leave the children to their own devices and focus in on the social opportunity to be with women approximating their own age.  The occasional father who attended just kind of ‘hung out’ trying to keep a low profile on the periphery while trying to figure out what is the expected behaviour.  And now, at nine years and counting, I noticed that the moms and the occasional dad watch with a sense of wistfulness as their pre-adolescent, pre-pubescent progeny take on some real challenges as part of the birthday party meme.

It started off years ago with home based ‘open house’ type of gatherings that then became the obligatory ‘princess themed’ pizza parties either at home or at one of the pizza restaurants that had developed very specific party programming as part of their business plan. I recognized that it was all evolving when I arrived late to a home based Alice in Wonderland themed party complete with a ‘bouncy castle‘ having been assigned the task of picking up a masterfully produced MadHatter cake which wasn’t ready on time.   Scant weeks later I attended a Monster High party with GhostBusters overtones at a ‘play park’.  We’ve done more of the play parks and the trampoline parks.  This year the birthday events were a pool party preceded by a brief intro to golf by way of a kid-centric Par3 tournament organized at a local golf and country club, an afternoon at a rock/wall climbing gym.  Her Ladyship was an active participant in both events, not just content to hang about on the fringes with the moms and other grandparents.  

Here is a shot of her ladyship competing with one of the celebrating granddaughters on a rock climbing wall.  That’s her ladyship on the left nearing the top of the wall.

her ladyship and GG

It is a bit odd how I always seem to be the one lone male who hangs around for the duration of these birthday events.  Where do all the dads go?  Why is it always the mothers who are assigned to ‘hang out’ and bear witness?  Or is it by choice?  These parties are most often co-ed events so its not like its all ‘girly’ stuff all the time.  Well, at least with my grandkids the mix of party guests have always been both male and female, a nod to the composition of their school classrooms and their cousins. There is sometimes a secondary event, some sort of sleep over which is definitely unisex.

I do smile at the one upsmanship that seems to come with each party.  Does this mean that because Her Ladyship climbed a wall, played golf and swam in this cycle of birthday events that more of the moms and grandmothers in the friendship circles of our granddaughters will become active participants at birthday events beyond just buying presents and putting together grab bags?

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