On Friday we celebrated A’s 12th birthday. It is astonishing that she is twelve already (to me at least, in a mad moment one day last week K was convinced she was going to be 13) although on some days she behaves more like a 16 year old than the age she actually is – and this is not always in a stroppy, teenager-like way. She is mature for her age and pretty sensible most of the time. I think it is hard for all of us to cope with her when she is in turn silly and childish, until we remind ourselves that she is, er, well, a child.
She was fine with being at school on her birthday. She has a good bunch of friends now and they were messaging her in the morning before school with birthday wishes. It was non-uniform day which was a complete bonus for her. We then planned for G&G to come over for cake and present opening before a meal out at a local Italian chain restaurant that we frequent from time to time.
School was great – one of her friends in her form had decorated her locker with a collage of photos of her and balloons and presented her with a lovely gift. She had cards from other friends and generally had a Good Day. Her request this year was for a shopping trip instead of presents so most of the family, including K & I, gave her money which meant there was only a few smallish gifts to open, but it was All Good. My attempt at a rainbow cake was also not too awful so the cake part was also Very Good.
In fact, the whole evening was perfectly lovely except for one small moment – unfortunately, one which will be remembered by me for a while. We were getting ready to leave the house, T going out the door in front of me. I noticed as he walked out of the door that there was a small clump of mud on the mat. “Oh you’ve walked mud into the house” I groaned at him. I picked it up and chucked it onto the grass verge. It was then that I realised IT WAS NOT MUD. I repeat: IT WAS NOT MUD. I had picked up, in my bare hands and with no question, a piece of dog poo. DOG POO! IN MY BARE HANDS! Anyone who knows me even a little bit will know that this is Not Good. After 4 hand-washes, 3 squirts of antibacterial hand gel and a lot of disgusted whimpering we were able to leave the house to go for dinner. I would like to say that it put me off my food but, again, anyone who knows me even a little bit will know that NOTHING puts me off my food. We had a lovely meal and the birthday was a great success.
The next day, we had arranged to take A and four of her friends to the cinema to see La-La-Land (initial choice was Beauty and the Beast but selfishly the film company did not release this in time for A’s birthday) followed by pizza at our house (being on a bit of a budget and not able to fork out a further 50-odd quid for dinner for them all at a restaurant). Believe me when I say that any type of hosting of anyone other than family fills me with a sort of dread. I like having friends round, but find it stressful. I am not a natural hostess and constantly question myself – will they eat what I have cooked? Will they think the menu is boring? Will they think the music is rubbish? What will we talk about? blah blah blah. It’s no different when the kids have friends round. Some of them I have known since they were tiny, others are new friends: unknown quantities. It’s all quite stressful.
So the idea of four girls in the house (two I know pretty well, two I don’t) was nerve-wracking. I worry that kids, like dogs, can smell the fear, or, in my case, the desperation for it all to be over. I worry that they can tell that my smile is a bit forced and that I am a tad nervous. Kids don’t expect their friends’parents to be shy and nervous. They expect them to be fun and in control (but not a control freak) and nice. I am nice. I am not fun. I hate mess. I hate excessive noise. Five girls in a small space are loud. They squeal a lot. We got through it though. K was dreading it as much as I was but was kind and didn’t desert me. It was fine. I don’t know if they had a good time – I think they did. One was constantly “live-streaming” the occasion on some form of social media which struck me as slightly odd but then I am OLD so what do I know? Perhaps I should be flattered that she felt it worthy of trying to induce some FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in her other friends who had not been invited. In reality it made me shudder at the thought that the other girls may then question their new, tentative friendships with A and wonder why they hadn’t been invited too. I was that girl. I would have not survived my teens if social media had been around – I would have cried a lot (more than I did).
The final day of the Birthday Weekend was the big shopping trip with Grandma. Three generations of women out shopping together could be a bit of a gamble. My dad always used to say (and still does, in fact) to mum and me when we were heading out to the shops “Be nice to each other – no fighting”. I am not sure what this was based on – I don’t remember any one particular occasion where we had a disastrous outing but I suspect there probably were some. However, we had a great day – A spent her budget wisely and bought some lovely clothes and accessories, announcing in one changing room that she has definitely “found her style” and loves shopping. We had toasties in M&S and hot choc in John Lewis and she ended up with tons of bags so all in all it was a Very Good Day.
Happy Birthday my beautiful girl.