We recently celebrated Maia’s sixth birthday. It still feels a little surreal saying it even now, because I can’t believe how quickly six years have gone. Plus I feel too young to be the mother of a six year old.
We asked Maia a few months ago what she’d like to do for her Birthday party, suggesting maybe Pizza Express and a few friends, or that we rent a hall and hire an entertainer. I briefly dabbled with the idea of doing the entertaining myself, having attended several parties led by rather colourful and highly energetic entertainers, and thinking it looked rather fun and couldn’t be all that hard. We’d save money, be self-sufficient, and I’d get to perform at last, albeit to a very special kind of tricky and hard-to-please audience.
I toyed with visions of myself taking to the metaphorical stage dressed up as a mermaid, or Jasmine from Aladdin, or some generic princess, leading a group of children around the room, blowing bubbles, or just singing something well-known from a popular Disney film. There’d be games and prizes and lots of music and dancing. Not a moment of boredom. And the Birthday girl would get a real kick out of seeing her Mother running around with a tail, and scales.
But no, I knew I ought to keep my theatrical tendencies where they belonged, in a theatre, so saved myself the hassle and sensibly steered away from Ariel. We let Maia decide.
“I want Monkey Mates”.
“But Maia you’ve had Monkey Mates for your last two birthdays, why don’t we do something different this year?”
“NO, I want Monkey Mates!”.
So, for the third year running, my daughter had her Birthday party at Monkey Mates, the soft play activity centre. I do think we should have received some kind of discount on account of our loyalty to that establishment. Or maybe shares in the company. We just keep coming back for more.
I helped Maia give out her invites with a horrible feeling of “I know, it’s Monkey Mates AGAIN…she loves it there okay?!”.
Fourteen little friends and their tired parents trickled in on Sunday morning to greet the birthday girl, who was, by 10:30, already dripping with sweat from all the pre-party running around. The joy of Monkey Mates is that there really isn’t all that much for the host to do other than occasionally hydrate the children with squash, point to the toilets, and chat. And of course the cake.
I made a point of bringing extra cakes for the adults, as a sort of apology for dragging them all back here for a third time. Seems to go down well. It’s a silent “I know you don’t want to be here, so just hang in there and eat the cake!”. Once, fine, two years running, fair enough, but three times just indicates a lack of imagination on the parents’ part. (I’m aiming for my starry role as “generic princess” for Maia’s seventh birthday).
It’s noisy, chaotic, and a lot of the time you have no idea where exactly your child is, but they do seem to love that soft play centre, and I know Maia enjoyed her celebrations. It was unmistakable delight across her little face as we sung Happy Birthday and I’ll never forget her big eyes looking up at me with a “Mummy can you help me?!” as she struggled to blow out her candles. I felt very very grateful in that moment. Six amazing years with a wonderful little person.