L-R, Lily, Amelie the little sister, India the birthday girl, and Daisy
This month, my eldest daughter turned 10. Ten! Once I was hit by the realization that she will therefore start secondary school next year in 2017, I did break down weeping and sniffling over the baby photos. I suspect this must be a mummy-thing, because my husband simply gave me a conciliatory pat on the shoulder and exclaimed rational surprise at how quickly the years (and sleep deprivation) have disappeared.
This year, for the first time since her first birthday, India did not have a party. This was the year when I finally felt it would be justifiable to suggest she choose two friends to accompany herself and her sister to the cinema, and lunch after. India likes to forward plan these things (I’m talking 6 months in advance), and so she had chosen her buddies long ago. This new-fangled take on birthdays made things both easier and harder, because numbers of invitees were severely diminished, and some people had to be left out; never easy. However, after a decade of parties and catering, and with the little lady in double figures, the grown-up daytrip went down well.
I engaged the resources of my mother for adult company (there’s only so much Alvin & the Chipmunks I can cope with alone), and we set off for Gunwharf. India, Amelie, Lily and Daisy were perfectly behaved throughout the film, and were model mini-diners in Pizza Express afterwards. Following the meal, we returned back home before finishing the day with the birthday cake, one of those few annual occasions where adults have to sing badly, out loud, in front of other adults, and children with long hair have open flames put in front of their faces.
I can’t deny that I was exhausted afterwards (8 hours is a long time when Alvin makes a vocal contribution), but every minute of the day was worth it to see India beaming with enjoyment – and made all the more worthwhile when she thanked me that evening for having made ‘such an effort’ for her. This independent gratefulness is, I suppose, simply another sign of her growing up; a recognition that the adults around you do actually put themselves out for your happiness.
Something she won’t realise until she’s much older though, is that I gained just as much enjoyment from being able to facilitate the day for her and her lovely friends. And anyway, compared to baking 200 fairy cakes and opening up my house to twenty-eight 5 year olds, their parents and a magician, it was a doddle.