My daughter Liv recently turned five. In lockdown. Fortunately, we hadn’t planned a big birthday bash, which softened the blow a bit, but we couldn’t bear the thought of not celebrating at all, so we threw her a lockdown part’. No guests (except the neighbours singing happy birthday from across the street), limited presents (I did zero gift shopping before lockdown not expecting it to go on for so long) and a homemade mermaid-themed cake – thank goodness for YouTube tutorials!
As we sang happy birthday, I felt a pang of sadness. Birthdays should be shared with friends and family – Zoom calls just don’t count in my books – but here we were just the four of us (and Barbie, of course).
Not being able to connect with others is possibly the toughest part of this COVID-19 crisis and what I have been craving most – even more than wine, which is now in short supply in my house!
But for Liv and her brother, as much as they miss their friends and grandparents, it turns out the connection that really means the most to them is the one they have with us. In fact, when we asked the kids what they like the most about lockdown – we try hard to focus on the positives as much as we can – their response was “playing with Mom and Dad”.
I tried to remind myself of this as I dished up just four slices of cake.
The party, despite being an intimate celebration, was a success, but it’s just one of many birthday traditions we have. The other one is a trip to Spur for dinner. Of course, that wasn’t an option, but I figured, if we could pull off a ‘party’ in lockdown, we could find a way to keep this tradition going too. And we did.
After doing some online research, I stumbled across a social media post by a very clever mum in England who turned her home into her child’s favourite restaurant. Genius.
Unfortunately, I had limited supplies to work with – some old bunting, a few balloons and a chalkboard, which I decided to use to write the evening’s menu on, but we made it work. Never underestimate the impact of colourful balloons, bunting and a pretty table setting. To add authenticity, I scoured the internet for some cool colouring-in pictures I could print out and filled a jar with crayons so the kids could do some colouring in. We even went so far as to download the Spur birthday song… YouTube really is a beautiful thing.
While nothing beats a birthday at the real Spur, Liv seemed to really enjoy herself – particularly being able to order anything she wanted from the waiter aka Dad. Watching him run around all night, I was delighted I had assumed the role of chef for the evening!
Later, when Liv was recounting the day to her grandparents (via video call, of course), she said it was the best birthday ever. I couldn’t believe it. Turns out children are incredibly adaptable and resilient – and parents are far more creative than we ever give ourselves credit for.
Jessica is a writer and editor from Cape Town – and a mom of two young kids. When she’s not working or running after her two little ones, she writes about the mess and the magic of motherhood, sharing her parenting journey, one faux pas at a time. Follow her on Instagram @realhometruths.