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The Man Who Had No Birthdays


Someone’s kid has an extendable arm that only comes out when there’s a chocolate fountain. Handy. 

May Blossom turned six on the weekend and her two requests for her party were:

  1. A chocolate fountain

  2. No siblings

The first request we could accommodate. We borrowed a device called a Sunbeam Choccy, melted together a kilo of chocolate and a cup of canola oil, and Bob’s your auntie’s live-in lover: there’s your chocolate fountain. Happy days.

The second request was more challenging, because I believe family should celebrate birthdays together. Even if some of the family are behaving like complete shits. I’m a big believer in encouraging children to be kind and loving, and to celebrate each other’s successes and happiness. Garnet’s beliefs are fundamentally opposed to that.

Every time May Blossom mentioned her birthday in the preceding six or so months, Garnet burst into tears. ‘Why does she always get all the birthdays?” he’d wail. When it was H’s birthday, you’d have thought Garnet was being sold for scrap metal, such was his misery. ‘Why does Daddy always get to have SO MANY birthdays?’ he’d howl.

Every time he was invited to a birthday party (although unsurprisingly those invitations are increasingly thin on the ground) we’d deal with the same performance. Other Jess says he has the worst FOMO she’s ever seen, but I think it’s more than that. He doesn’t just have Fear Of Missing Out, he has Fear Of Anyone Else Having A Good Time. FOAEHAGT, you might call it, with no risk of it catching on.

So there really wasn’t much chance of May Blossom getting away with not inviting Garnet to her party, as infinitely pleasanter as that scenario would have been. We tried to accommodate her wishes as best we could, and rudely specified to her friends (many of whom are the children of our friends) that their siblings weren’t welcome, so really the party did end up being pretty sibling-free, but there was still Garnet. With his incoherent sobbing monologues of injustice, delivered on the half hour all weekend, his remarkable forward-squirting tears, and his deep, deep sense of injustice, there was Garnet.

We didn’t really know how to deal with him. You can’t force someone to be gracious. If someone is really that lacking in the milk of human kindness, what is there to be done? I came to parenting with a strong belief that only the haver of the birthday should get presents, but by the end of the weekend I had come around to the equally strong belief that Garnet should have whatever in god’s name it would take to shut him up. He came away the highly sugared-up victor, proud owner of a new stuffed dingo.

I think we managed to keep him under control enough for May Blossom to enjoy her party, although he did cry for the first twenty minutes and we took the third in an annual series of photographs of Garnet attempting to blow out May Blossom’s candles one beat before the end of ‘Happy Birthday’.

The chocolate fountain was a hit, as were the party games that we planned the night before using a technique called ‘Asking Drunk Adults At a 41st Birthday Celebration to Brainstorm Party Games For Six Year Olds’. I highly recommend it. It led to a rousing game of Wrap Each Other Up Like Mummies In Toilet Paper, followed by an equally rousing game of Make A Toilet Paper Blizzard, which was swiftly followed by Put All The Toilet Paper In A Rubbish Bag Because That Lady Has A Voice Like A Teacher, for which we can thank Other Jess.

All in all, it was a far cry from the meticulously planned parties we threw for May Blossom’s first few birthdays. Actually, who am I kidding? There is plenty of evidence on this very blog that we have always thrown quite shambolic parties.

Late in the day, after yet another bout of tears, Garnet managed to explain to me that his sadness stems from the fact that he actually has never had a birthday. Of course you have, I told him. You’ve had three birthdays. That’s how you are three years old.

‘But I don’t remember them, Mummy,’ he said sadly.

And he really doesn’t. Because his memory is only just starting to kick in. Which is how memory works in small children. It is not how memories work in ageing mothers, clearly, because I had completely forgotten this fact. He really doesn’t think he has ever had a birthday. (And sadly, if he were to look through the archives of this blog, he would find no evidence to the contrary because I am an even more lax blogger than I am a mother.)

So Garnet, the next six weeks will be devoted to the planning of YOUR birthday. It will be elaborate and exciting, you will receive every book about baby animals we can lay our hands on, and everyone will bow down at the altar of Garnet.

Well, I say that now, but in reality his birthday is just before Christmas and everyone is going to be worn to a frazzle and feeling queasy from end-of-term gifts of rocky road and candy canes, and it’ll probably be a huge letdown. But at least this year, he might remember it happened.

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