[Planning for Ryder’s 3rd Birthday Non-Party]

In 2015 I became the mum of a fully-fledged threenager. This stage of motherhood has pretty much turned out to be as difficult and simultaneously amazing as all the blogs and articles I’d read had made it out to be. Threenagers have serious sass. They argue. They throw volcanic tantrums. They’re sweet and affectionate one minute, and moody or
“hangry” in the next. Forget the newborn neediness, the one year old cheekiness and the terrible twos. Three comes with all of that, plus the added (dis)advantages of extreme mobility, energy for days and enough verbal prowess to argue, and negotiate, and ask a ba-jil-li-on questions all day every day. It’s a rollercoaster ride, but one I’m enjoying nonetheless (while my knuckles turn white from holding on for dear life).

To celebrate Ryder’s 3rd birthday we jump-skipped over all the stress and drama of the previous year’s celebration, and opted for a small, no-fuss shindig at the home of my in-laws. In actual fact, we hijacked my dad-in-law’s 50th birthday celebration – his birthday is four days before Ryder’s. My mum-in-law had planned a small braai for him with a few family members, and I was like “Great, We’ll blow out candles for Ryder on the same day,” knowing full well I did not have the energy or will to do any elaborate party planning.

And you know what? Our kiddo had the best time ever, simply being a kid and getting to hang out with his cousins without all of the stress of being the centre of attention in front of a ton of strangers.

He had two mini celebrations of turning 3 – one at his school and one at home, and he wanted two different themes, but had been changing his mind every few days about what these would be.

I’d been crazy hectic at work, but exactly a week before his birthday, I suddenly clicked that I should probably give a call to the lady who normally bakes for me. I went into a  complete tailspin when she said she was super busy and couldn’t help with a birthday cake, and definitely not two. Ermahgerd.

Off I dashed to Party Themes. I was going to bake my own kid’s cake, or die trying! Just like everybody on Pinterest and Instagram. In I walked with the threenager in tow, both of us super excited about the mission at hand. We got straight into choosing some racing car themed cake toppers (his choice) and I was drawn deeper and deeper into my own fantasy of morphing into Nigella Lawson and whipping up a cake that would have everybody marvelling at what a super-mum I am.

Except I’d overlooked one crucial thing…. the last time I’d baked anything must have been over five years ago, and there is possibly only one instance when my baking “skills” didn’t produce a mega flop.  Still, the Nigella fantasy had me in its evil grip by then. With a basket full of baking paraphernalia, we then proceeded to the decor aisle.

Me: “OK kiddo, have a look at all this cool stuff and decide what you’d like to have for your school party and for your party at Ma and Pa’s house.”

Threenager: “Ummmm. I want a yacing car cake.”

Me: “Yep, got it. Mummy’s going to bake one for school because mummy is awesome. And we’ve got some cool racing car plates, cups and party packs here, too. What would you like for the party at Ma and Pa’s?”

Threenager: (with wide-eyed wonder and a gasp) “Yook, mummy! Dohya the Expyoya and even Sophia the First. I can have pink and purple cupcakes!!”

Me: “Ummm, ok, you could, because pink and purple are just colours, but your grandparents might have heart failure. What about these Jake and the Neverland Pirates things here?”

Threenager: (gasp) “Yeeees, mummy. Yet’s do Piyates!”

[Ten minutes of deciding which Pirates set to go with, with frequent changes of mind in between]

Threenager: Ooooh, mummy! Yook at this! A fire twuck party!”

Me: “Yes babe, but you’ve decided on the racing cars and the pirates already. You can only choose two.”

Threenager: “Oh. That’s not fair, mummy.” (sulking, repeating previous phrase about 52 times)

Me: “Ok, ok, if you really want the fire trucks we can get rid of the pirates stuff.”

Threenager: “Noooo. I want the yacing cars and the fire twucks AND the pi…..ooooh, mummy! Yook at this wuvwy Thomas party stuff over here!”

And so it was that over an hour into the mission we ended up deciding on racing cars for school and Thomas the Tank Engine for home.

I checked my phone and then found a reply from another lady I’d asked to bake the cakes but then forgotten about it. She could do them. Oh, thank you sweet Jesus. Nigella has left the building!! Just as well, too, because my fantasy had already started coming undone once I tallied up the costs of this elaborate baking plan. Much easier to just pay somebody to do it for me instead of investing in all this baking equipment that I wasn’t sure I’d use ever again.

The threenager, however, was not as eager to give up the fantasy. The minute I put those racing car toppers back onto the shelf, all hell broke loose.

And there, in Party Themes, with the store assistants and patrons all looking on in amusement (or disgust, whatever), we proceeded to have our very first public tantrum, complete with earth-shattering wailing and throwing of one’s little body onto the floor. This continued all the way to our next stop at Makro, where I got us out of the car and sat us both down in an exhausted heap right on the pavement and gave him a talking to about how it’s not nice or fair to cry and perform like that when mummy is doing all these nice things for his birthday. He eventually nodded and finally stopped the wailing.

At Makro we grabbed some goodies for the school party packs. That in itself is a pretty drawn-out affair for somebody with my personality. I was walking down the aisles with my phone in hand opening and re-opening a blog I’d seen where the blogger was so disgusted at the amount of sugary, MSG-laden, Chinese import stuff that had been sent home in a party pack for her kids. I didn’t want to be that mother whose sins were so publicly shamed on social media. Still, I also didn’t want my kid to be the one whose mum sent a bag full of roasted pumpkin seeds and organic raisins either.  I might have hand-crafted a goodie bag insert if I had the time. ..OK, no, I wouldn’t have, because let’s face it, I’m not a crafting mum and my best Pinterest intentions have all been doomed for failure from the start. We went with this and yes, it is sugary and has MSG, but I promise I’d do better next year.

In terms of a gift for the threenager, it was very amusing because he had seen a car-shaped lamp (or “yamp” as he calls it) in Mr P a few weeks before and had nagged about it for days until we finally got it for him. So there were no expensive, outlandish gifts from mum and dad this year and he was just as pleased, if not more so, to receive something he genuinely wanted and had picked out himself.


So that was the sum total of my party planning in 2015. And barely a week after turning 3 in August, Ryder was already talking about the construction party he’s having for his 4th birthday … #cannotactuallydeal



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