In the third bang, a candy waterfall erupted from the cracked piñata and the kids dove for the floor and scrambled over the sweets, fighting each other to fill their pockets with the goodies they want. And that was it – six hours of work destroyed in six seconds. No wonder some parents ask me why I do this. Why do I spend my nights crafting themed birthday parties for my children?
For this particular piñata, I had cut strips of newspaper and, one by one, wet them in a mixture of water and flour and layered them over an oversized balloon. I repeated this process over and over for six hours over two nights because my son asked for a Death Star piñata this year. I could have said no, it’s too much work. But he loves Star Wars and his parties and he was turning 10 – I don’t think there are many more themed birthday parties left on him. My eldest this year turned 12 and chose to invite his friends to the movies instead of having a party. I’m glad that for 11 years I was part of his celebrations and helped make his date of birth memorable.
I’ve heard some mothers arguing that elaborate kid’s parties are the epitome of the ‘invisible labour’ of the gendered work of caring and that this should have no place in the lives of today’s modern women. It’s also not uncommon to read about mothers showing off how accomplished they are at mothering by throwing impeccable parties. Others have said these parties are a form of ostentation. There are as many views as there are people and all these arguments may hold true in some cases but for me, birthday parties are a celebration of both childhood and a new year of living. I feel that I’m creating beautiful memories while celebrating friendship, sharing food together, preparing and opening our house for visitors.
This year marked the beginning of a new era. It was a strange feeling, having my son saying he didn’t want a party. “Not even a cake?” I persisted. He shook his head. “How about invitations?” “Only if it’s a plain invitation, no cuteness.” And that was it. A night at the movies and Mc Donald’s with his mates. For years, he chose a theme for this party and got excited about the invitation and birthday decorations. Every year the party’s theme registered a different stage in his life. From Nemo to pirates to dinosaurs to bushwalking. This year, the lack of a theme indicated the beginning of a new phase of his journey towards independence. I felt a sense of pride as I watched my little man marching towards the movie theatre surrounded by friends.
You will never get this moment back again. There will come a day when we don’t know but we will be doing something for the last time. That’s why I was determined to create a Death Star and didn’t give up when the balloon collapsed into itself. Once the covered balloon was dry, I cut a hole on the top to later put in the lollies and was going to start the painting and decoration. But something went wrong. The papier-mache started to crack and the balloon couldn’t hold its weight. I tried to bring it back to shape with duct tape but to no avail. “Mum it’s ok, you’ve put so much effort already.” My wise 10-year-old brought some sense to my desperation.
But I was determined to make his Death Star come back to life. I looked online for alternative ways to accomplish my goal and realised I would have to start from scratch. I decided I was going to try to cover another balloon with plaster and went to the craft shop to buy the ingredients. I stood there, staring at the shelves and in my mind’s eyes I pictured myself covered in white power swiping the dusty floor at 2am. My son’s voice echoed in my ears. Everything has a limit. Two hours later I returned home with a $12 piñata from Kmart. It wasn’t the Death Star but the kids enjoyed it all the same.