It's that time of year again, when it should be an occasion to relax, wear a big smile and celebrate.
One year older, with another 52 weeks of memories to look back on...reminiscing about the wonderful times and they have been great.
So why am I feeling tense?
It's not as though it's my birthday.
No, mine's not due for another couple of weeks and this year it will be the big 4.0. Yes you read that correctly...FORTY YEARS OLD!
But strangely I'm feeling more neurotic about the birthday of the Junior Saboteur, who will be turning just a tenth of my age on Wednesday.
Yes, little T will be celebrating with four little candles on his cake.
The party's booked and he's invited his little friends to paint ceramic cars at a kids' cafe in town. It's the first time he's had a party "off-site" so to speak. I normally enjoy organising birthday parties at home, but this year he wanted to celebrate his special occasion elsewhere. And I'm not going to say no to cappuccinos on tap for two hours and people on hand to help.
So last week, we made the invitations and handed them out...to nine children...
...and yep, that's when the neurosis set in!
Well I suppose I really was laying my reputation on the line for all to ponder...
I've thought about it before, but it wasn't until last week did I feel brave enough to dare say it..
...brave enough to utter the five little words that on the surface seem so simple...
which have the power to make you stand out from the crowd and stick out like a sore thumb in the modern age that is the 21st Century!
Yes five simple, well meant words...that go something like...
"Please don't worry about presents"
There, I've said it!
That felt so much easier than when the words stumbled out of my mouth whilst handing out the first three invitations.
Lovely as my friends are, when I uttered those words and witnessed the double-take I did feel somewhat like an alien who had landed from outer space or like a lunatic that had escaped the asylum.
I guess, it is pretty unheard of...a birthday party with no presents.
How could a mother be so cruel?
How could a four year old understand?
The truth is that I don't feel cruel at all. Little T has got loads of toys to play with, whether they're his own things, his brother's hand-me-downs or odd bits of pap that he's collected from fairs and comics in years gone by. His bedroom is already too small to cope with it all.
But could he really understand if friends didn't give him any presents? I suppose I've never made a big thing of taking him shopping to buy a present for a friend's birthday party. It's always been easier to go off and get it myself, so the gift thing has pretty much gone under his radar.
As ever, this birthday he's going to have lots of presents sent in the post by relatives that live far away, from aunts and uncles who see him infrequently but who want to still play a part in his life with gifts on special occasions. There'll also be a present from his brother, for them both to share, and being his loving parents we've got a little surprise for him too.
That already seems like a lot of things to keep a little boy amused. So I don't think he'll feel underwhelmed. In fact, I'd hope that he'd feel happier that his old mum's sanity was kept in order.
But is this sufficient justification to break away from the modern tradition of guests bearing gifts at parties?
It feels like tough love, trying to move away from consumerist patterns of owning lots of things that clutter up the house and eventually get worn out or broken and discarded off to landfill.
And then there's the perspective of the guests, or rather their parents, who want to teach their children to be kind and how to celebrate special occasions. After all, society almost expects gifts to be offered at events such as birthday parties whether it's out of kindness, appreciation or duty.
Take that option away from someone and it can look like a personal affront, with a big slap of ingratitude.
Which of course it isn't.
If you take a step back and think about it logically, it all seems sensible...well it does to me. It's 2008. We're right in the middle of a credit crunch, with soaring oil prices, higher food costs and more expensive mortgages. What better opportunity is there to break the cycle of copious amounts of stuff.
I'm already feeling like an unnatural radical by suggesting cutting back on presents for my children, but maybe it is time for parents to stand together and all agree to cut the crap, throwing caution to the wind along with the guilt.
Wow...my mother would hardly recognise me...blimey, am I really a recovered shopaholic? Is it my age I wonder?
All this and I haven't even mentioned the "Party Bag Crisis" yet! Ah well...that's another day!
In the meantime, I'll leave you with with some more STUFF AND NONSENSE (quite literally) soon to be published in my monthly column for our local magazine. I told you my reputation was on the line...perhaps I should be heading for my blue rinse now.
Whether you’re young or old,
love it or hate it,
have little or lots,
one thing’s for sure we’ve all got some.
And it’s everywhere!
All around the house and in every room.
especially the garage.
There’s even stuff in the loo!
There’s stuff that has a home,
stuff that should be somewhere else
and stuff that belongs nowhere at all.
There’s his stuff, there’s mine.
There’s new stuff and old.
We flash the new stuff and hide the old
– in the loft, the tip and the charity shops.
TOO MUCH STUFF!
And it’s multiplying,
You have kids and it breeds.
2.4 children and a mountain of stuff.
There are even days to celebrate it.
“Happy birthday” and “Merry Christmas” we say,
as we hand over the stuff!
SO MUCH STUFF!
Oh the memories,
ah the decades gone by.
Some of mine is 40 years old.
I hope I’ve got another 40 to go.
BUT THAT’S MEANS MORE STUFF
Will I need a bigger house?
Just for the stuff?
Will a bigger house have cupboards?
Could I use the garage as a garage?
Could we just pile it all into a spare room?
I haven’t used half of it.
There are gifts,
There’s cheap stuff that’s broken
and old stuff that’s gone out of fashion.
OH DEAR IT’S ALL PILING ON TOP OF ME.
I feel like I’m being buried alive.
I can see my epitaph now...
“She was a happy soul, but the stuff and nonsense got her in the end”