I’ve recently thinking about birthdays. March and April are busy months for birthdays in our family at this time of year. Our kids absolutely love their birthdays. A whole day to celebrate you with presents and parties and, of course, cake. Let’s not forget the cake. Nothing says “birthday” quite like a cake whether its decorated in your favourite cartoon character or covered in frosting and chocolate. A birthday cake is an integral part of the day, and best of all, you’re actually allowed to eat it. More than that, it’s expected. In this day and age when sugar is the root of all our problems, carbohydrates are a form of self-harm and wine the downfall of all our dieting intentions, birthdays provide an excuse for some guilt-free indulgence.
My twins love their birthday so much they start planning it six months in advance. After Christmas they start talking about what kind of party they are going to have. Their birthday is in June. The date is firmly on the radar and even if the details still need to be worked out one thing is certain, there will be some form of serious celebration. They look forward to the day with eager anticipation. They rip open presents, display their birthday cards all around the house and generally revel in the attention, telling everyone we happen across that day that this day is special because it’s their birthday.
Speaking of marking birthdays, how do you celebrate yours? Do you go all out with parties, balloons, and trips away? Do you stretch it out over a week or two to get as much mileage out of it as you can? Or do you only do those things for other people, choosing instead to spend your day quietly and anonymously, not telling anyone it’s your birthday, and certainly not divulging your actual age. Because we never give that away. That’s often a state secret only to be shared after one too many glasses of pinot grigio. We are happy to discuss ages with our kids though. It’s quite common to ask how old a child is. It’s one of the standard questions: What’s your name; What class are you in at school; how old are you? We are happy to discuss our favourite things and what we do all day. We never discuss our age. Unless our kids do it for us. I remember a trip to the dentist where they asked the standard questions, what’s your name, how old are you? Ben proudly announced “I’m Ben and I’m five, and this is Tracey and she’s forty-three!” I like to think the dentist looked surprised at this revelation, but I know it was actually amusement at Ben’s total acceptance of the numbers and lack of inhibition in sharing them. After all, age is just a number, isn’t it?
The idea of age has changed over the years. Our parents look much younger now than their parents did at forty thanks to more flattering hairstyles, younger looking clothes and a longer life expectancy. Forty isn’t so old any more. If forty is the new thirty, then eighty is the new sixty if the last party I was at is anything to go by. Sylvia, the birthday girl, defied any preconceived notions of what eighty should look like, blazing a trail in a chic black dress and dancing the night away. Maybe we should all take a leaf out of her book and throw birthday parties complete with champagne cocktails (she served rhubarb gin and prosecco – strangely moreish), fabulous food and dancing until midnight.
Have you got a birthday coming up? Why not plan something lovely, nice coffees at break time or a lunch at the very least, and load up those candles on your favourite cake. I plan to kick-start my birthday festival with chocolate muffins for breakfast, indulge in some delicious chocolate truffles for elevenses, and a slice of chocolate cake for tea washed down with some prosecco. Alright, I might throw in some vegetables at lunchtime and maybe a piece of fruit or two, but you get the picture. I’m starting the planning early; my birthday is almost seven months away. I think my twins will approve.