Fatherhood and birthday blues

Some rules are about being a father that I need to share and I know they are true for sure because my father has never heard of them.
Rule 1: And this is the most important rule of all as far as possible —avoid being a father.

Rule 2: And the last rule is if you do become a father remember your most important duty — some would say your only duty — is to execute the birthday party. Now that I’ve finished off with the whole list of rules let me elucidate and enlighten you with pictures. Oh I’ve just been told by the editor not to waste pictures so let us return once more to modern prose. On January 13, my daughter Maya turned five. Unlike a spouse’s birthday, a child’s birthday can never be forgotten. Is this because a) you love your child more than life itself? b) the child is born on the same day as you? c) the child is born one day after you? or d) the child reminds you of his/her birthday every single day and this dates back to his/her last birthday?
If you have answered c) or d) then you’ve earned yourself points. If you have answered a) then you are obviously not a father.
Now, the planning for the birthday is very important. This is usually how it’s done. The wife and you sit in a dimly lit room and come to a few hard decisions together. This is done quickly by agreeing with your wife. For fathers, making a suggestion is an act in futility and must only be indulged in by those fathers desperate enough. This suggestion comes at a big price — more unnecessary time spent at the meeting coming to hard decisions collectively by listening to your wife.
Okay, now there are certain negotiables and certain non-negotiables.
Food — Negotiable. Sometimes a samosa may be allowed to replace a pakoda (we are not referring to the guests here); a cheese sandwich may, after sufficient deliberation and impassioned pleas, replace a chutney sandwich; a plea, for example, based on the mundane fact that the location doesn’t serve chutney sandwich.
Drinks — Non-negotiable. My wife’s insistence that only juice should be served to young children is based on the sound logic that aerated beverages are bad for kids. This is because aerated beverages contain a lot of sugar. This remains non-negotiable even though the same amount of juice contains twice the amount of sugar as the aerated beverage.
Entertainment — One of the costs of urban life that we have to live with today along with the threat of terrorists and, worse still, reality shows, is entertainment. No party is complete without entertainment. And I don’t mean political party here, though obviously it’s true in both cases. Entertainment for a children’s party is non-negotiable.
While I wanted something outstanding like a friendly cow or, better still, teething goldfish, my wife decided on a magician. My plea that magicians will just land up conjuring animals from thin air, (read under the table) fell on deaf ears. Apparently roughly 80 years ago when my wife was young she had a happy memory of a magician at a birthday party who made things disappear. Now don’t get me wrong. I am as excited about a magician as the next guy. Who doesn’t like a guy in tights with a top hat and a cane, who’s neither visually impaired nor a dancer? He’s got my vote. He could start with the guests… so the matter is put to vote, the wife says “aye” and magician it is.
Finally we come to the back presents. First of all I want to use this forum to strongly object to the word “back present” What the hell does that mean? A present for one’s back? A present that was given by the guest being returned to the guest? It’s among my three worst words in the English language along with “wake up” and “shut up”. Anyway back present is a non-negotiable. I wanted to give T-shirts made by the Welfare of Stray Dogs, but in the spirit of true democracy, I dared not voice my opinion and we went with my wife’s more expensive er…
I’m told that the history of the first “back present” goes back to merry ole England where none of the rich kids wanted to attend King Edgar the 22nd’s birthday party, and had to be lured with promises of “back” presents — you know, moats, castle, public floggings — the sort of thing that caught a medieval adolescent’s eye at the time.
While the birthday process for the mother is as therapeutic as can be seen by the proud satisfied look she carries at the end of it, the same can’t be said of the father. Believe me, the look of utter helplessness and bewilderment has to be experienced to be believed.
Lessons in fatherhood is an eight- part extract. The next lesson will be published when the author learns his next lesson or becomes a father again, whichever is first.

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