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Archive for the tag “games”

Precedent setting

“Mommy,” said Matthew, gracing me with his most winning smile and then flinging his arms affectionately around me, “Can I please have a three-day birthday this year also? Like Liam did? Pleeeeeeeaaase?”

He was, of course, harking back to what had turned out to be our three-day birthday celebrations for his big brother a few months before. I noted with some interest that Matthew was also admirably demonstrating his solid grasp of the concept of ‘setting a precedent’.

Considering that he was turning only seven, I thought this was quite sussed. Not entirely unique – I think all children who are over three and have siblings pretty much get the concept. It lurks under the umbrella of general fairness, usually prefaced with remarks like, “Well, he/she has already got an XYZ and so I think you should buy me one also otherwise it’s not faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrr.”

My real reason for being amused at Matthew’s understanding of precedent-setting lay mainly in how he’d presented his request.

Frank and I have long been aware of Matthew’s uncanny ability to turn on the cuteness factor when he wants to get his own way. We believe he went to a charm school for babies when we weren’t looking.


Matthew sunglasses

We have no idea where he gets it from but when he wants to be, he is a winning flirt. This includes flirting, as may be required, with his parents.

Under the circumstances, we had no option but to acquiesce. It did seem only fair. We were slightly disadvantaged in accommodating Matthew in that Liam’s birthday had fallen this year on a public holiday, and I’d then been obliged to take two days leave from work straight after that because it was school holidays. And thus had occurred the ‘three-day birthday’.

So, in the absence of a convenient public holiday for our second-born, we started a few days early with Matthew. The weekend before his birthday we went to Bambanani to spend his birthday voucher. Once again the children ate spare ribs (not an everyday treat).

So all good.

Then came his actual birthday on a normal weekday, and cupcakes went to the school to be shared out among classmates and teachers. Presents, of course, were also given out in the morning before school, the big one being the PSP. We didn’t really have an option here: Liam had been given a PSP four months previously and there was no way that this particular gift could NOT be repeated for Matthew.

Happiness is… both your children engrossed in their portable electronic games while their parents get to read books/chat/catch up with chores/watch favourite TV programmes without being interrupted by the sound of piping voices from the small beings in the house.

And then, on the Friday afternoon after his birthday, Matthew, big brother and some of his friends went to play battle games. After putting on a cool jacket over the child’s normal clothes, the aim is to shoot laser guns at each other in a dark maze-like place that I personally find to be claustrophobic and frightening, but then I’m a girl so I suppose I have an excuse. (Apparently this game has been around for years and years but I missed it because I was perennially reading.)

WorldDominator and DeathStar

Code names like ‘Armageddon’, ‘World Dominator’ and ‘Death Star’ (well, something along those lines) are given out and you can watch the children climb up the rankings of the games on screens outside the Battle Zone. The birthday package includes three games in total, each lasting 15 minutes. Besides a brief scare during which Matthew skidded and fell onto his laser gun while running gleefully out of the second session because he was so pleased with his performance, all was, thankfully, incident-free.

incident free

After the Battle Zone, eight happy small boys plus assorted parents and family members then moved on to a nearby restaurant for the pizza and birthday cake part of the birthday celebration.

This included handing out a small gift for each child in the form of a brilliantly simply flying object resembling early helicopter dynamics, apparently based on a long-ago Da Vinci invention.

Well, actually, this particular theory is absolute surmise on my part, but the 21st century’s ability to borrow from the past in the name of reinventing the wheel never ceases to amaze me. Just look at how legwarmers and clogs occasionally pop up again, albeit briefly, and don’t get me started on the bubble skirt (and really – who would EVER have predicted that?).

So in between munching on pizza, pasta and birthday cake, a happy time was held by all children while they played with their unidentified Da Vinci-esque objects in a safe place outside.

birthday cake Matthew

And so the birthday party officially ended shortly afterwards, and I was very grateful that the next day was Saturday and I could have a bit of a lie-in and relax, in the sure knowledge that all parental birthday duties were now over – and, moreover, fairly executed.

“Mommy,” said Matthew early the next morning, when I was still waking up, “you know how I’m having a three-day birthday this year like Liam did? I still have one more day to go…”

He said this while flashing me his most winning smile, and while I was still a bit vulnerable and not quite compos mentos.

“Okay, my love,” I said absentmindedly.

“…Wait a minute!” shouted my brain synapses as they finally started firing on all cylinders again. “Oy! We have actually fulfilled the mandate here!”

So nice try, little man. I am NOT setting a precedent for a four-day birthday celebration next year.

Unless it begins with mine.




A feast of birthdays or a birthday feast?

Happy belated birthday Liam!

I haven’t written for a long time (clearly). Since my close encounter with rock stardom, as described in my last entry, Liam has turned nine years old and we celebrated for what seemed like about a week, although it was really only three days.

The Monday of his actual birthday was a public holiday, so we were able to go out for sushi as a family (the sushi was the birthday boy’s request). I am always so proud when my children use their chopsticks. Such little sophisticates!

On Tuesday, I took a day’s leave and the boys and I went off to Bambanani, where the little gourmands then chose to tuck into spare ribs.

Wednesday was the really big day: another day’s leave for me and I took five little boys to the games arcade and then a third birthday meal. It was a bit like herding cats, only significantly more difficult.

Imagine: I stayed cool, calm and collected throughout. My occasional alter-ego, Shouting Mommy, was nowhere to be found. I am quite proud of this.


incredibles mom and dash

But it was worth every moment, not to mention every rand spent on every ride and electronic diversion. I have never seen such joy on a child’s face as when my birthday boy and his friends came off what I can only describe as the ‘disco-ball bumper cars ride’.

Matthew spinning

For this, you must imagine five little boys riding around on circular hovercrafts, complete with their own individual controls that could move the hovercrafts not only in any desired trajectory, but which could also make them spin on their own axes.


Matthew spinning fast


Matthew spin grin

Add in flashing lights on the floor and loud music, as well as the stated purpose of barging into all your friends as often as possible for five whole minutes, and you can imagine the delighted squeals and giggles.


hovercraft bang


Little boys, when given access to a collective hearts’ desire like this, do indeed giggle and squeal.

I am stating this for the record while my boys are nine and six, and plan to remind them of this fact should they get uppity with me in the future, after their voices have broken and they’ve started shaving.

But back to when Liam turned nine.

Restaurant-wise, the children then deigned to lower their standards a tiny bit and we hit the Spur for a late lunch/early supper, where burgers were the order of the day.

At this point, I’d invited my friend Anne to join me in a glass or two of wine. She accepted my invitation most graciously – even though it was the Spur, where the waiters break out into odd line dances around the restaurant from time to time – for which I was very grateful. I was starting to feel Shouting Mommy stirring in her sleep and I wanted to keep her in her box for the day and not come out and spoil things.



And on Thursday, with the three-day birthday celebration over, I went back to work for a comparative rest. But the look on my little birthday boy’s face will stay with me for a long time.


Birthday boy smiling

Now, if I could only work shorter days and spend more time with my children and more time writing… that would be a dream come true.

Working on it, dear readers. It’s in the three-year plan.


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