I found a missing piece of myself under a giant bouncy castle recently. I lost it sometime around the birth of my daughter. It’s the bit that loved to throw a great party, have lots of friends together and socialise. It was lodged somewhere between a pack of nappies and a mountain of laundry.
I noticed it while the children were bouncing at my daughter’s third birthday party. Their parents were munching their way through lunch, grandparents looked on proudly, and adults sneakily pushed the toddlers away from the entertainer so they could stroke his rabbit. There was that familiar feeling of joy at being among friends, and the swelling heart at the achievement of throwing a good party that was now in full swing.
I was just as excited about the party as my daughter. Being a working-from-home mum with a small child means that socialising is limited in nature. And finding time to catch up with friends who also have small children or live far way is rare. So a birthday party was the perfect reason to create a social occasion that people would make an effort to attend.
As a woman who always loved to throw a party, I realised it was an opportunity to regain a little bit of my old party self. I’m now in recovery from party planning, and the exertions of enjoyment.
I’ve thrown parties before at home, intimate family dos that are inexpensive, heartfelt and memorable. This year, what was planned to be a small get together, morphed into a chaotic, energetic fun-fest in a local hall.
Earlier this month Beyoncé and Jay-Z hired out an entire theme park for their daughter Blue Ivy’s second birthday. Wherever you are in the world – London, Dubai, Delhi – the pressure is on.
In the UK, an average party costs an estimated £214 (Dh1,300). One of the motivations is competing with the Joneses. It’s love, not competition, that makes a great party.
For me, marking a birthday is a joyful cultural phenomenon that allows a child or adult to be socialised and connect with their close ones. Gatherings are a way to create love and connections between one person and her social network. And in my view, when it comes to children, this is particularly important.
I adore the moments when my parents’ peers regale me with stories of what I was like when I was younger. They have watched me progress through my life, and understand who I am and where I come from. The historic bonds and the love that underpin our relationships are important in my own development as well as in having allies in life. I’d like my child to have the same love from the elders as well as her friends, hopefully building relationships for life.
Parties for children are a way to invite our dear ones into the milestones of their lives. They can observe, enjoy and create shared memories. When they grow up, the seeds of love and relationships that we have sowed for her now, are the ones that will bear fruit.
A birthday party isn’t necessarily about deep philosophy or the meaning of life. If anything, it’s an excuse to get lots of people together, eat some tasty food and have great fun.
With the goal of enjoying ourselves with friends and family, I must admit, no, the cost of our party did not come in under the average. But we did bring together 80 friends and family members. I rediscovered my enjoyment of throwing parties. And most importantly, we all had a chance to have a go on the bouncy castle.
Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and blogs at www.spirit21.co.uk