Janet Christie's Mum's the Word - a party for Youngest Child's milestone birthday is child’s play

A seat on the sofa with siblings either side
Janet Christie's Mum's the Word. Pic: AdobeJanet Christie's Mum's the Word. Pic: Adobe
Janet Christie's Mum's the Word. Pic: Adobe

It’s Youngest Child’s birthday and the day she celebrates, yet again, becoming an adult. Sixteen was significant but not quite there yet, 18 was during Covid and a walk around the park with the regulation one other person (me - well, I grew her) clutching a plastic flute of pink prosecco into which it rained, so 21 is the big one.

But she’s not one for lavish centre-of-attention parties and we mark the day with one of our traditional family kind-of-rubbish parties. We do them so badly.

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No lavish venues or adrenalin-fuelled events for us - we tried that in the past and I’ve lost track of the number of times they ended in A&E, which is why Youngest always begs for ‘a quiet one please’, for years believing her birthday to be ‘cursed’. Give her a seat on the sofa with siblings either side with whom to bicker and she’s happy.

Other Parent is away but phones, and Middle and Eldest have to work later so we go for a lunch hour and a limited guest list - two brothers, two cats and me.

I’ve pulled out all, OK some, of the stops with the kiddie comfort food they like - pizza, crisps, a home-made cake in the shape of a butterfly with a Flake up the middle to fight over. She gets to wear the family ‘it’s my birthday’ badge, there are party poppers and squirty cream and the squinty ‘happy birthday’ banner over the fireplace.

“This party is exactly what I wanted,” she says, as she opens her cards and presents, and despite the nuclear candles and sparklers on the cake and some sugar rush physicality, no one is maimed.

Did you make a wish when you blew out your candles? I ask later as we survey the debris - squirty cream on my phone, her kitten tangled in party popper streamers.

“No, because I’m in my wish,” she says. Aw. She’s happy.

Or was, until I spoil it by saying, “just think, that’s the last of your kiddie parties ever,” and she immediately tears up.

“Why would you say that?” she says. “I don’t want to grow up! It’s all sorting out leases and contracts and driving and people being grumpy. I don’t want to be an adult!”

“Nonsense,” I say, “you can be grown up and still be childish,” I say. “Just look at your brothers.”