November – Cut the cr*p

I can reveal that the ‘gender reveal’ party is now a ‘thing’. Not content with a baby shower, loved-up couples are now forcing their nearest and dearest to endure cutsie pink or blue tiered cakes, ‘boy or girl?’ napkins (seriously, there’s an entire ‘gender reveal’ drop-down product menu on the Duchess of Cambridge’s mother’s party website) and copious amounts of theme-coloured confetti. For a planet that’s attempting to reduce waste, we seem to be remarkably intent on creating yet more rubbish.

But pity the American called Dennis who last month was fined US$8 million for a ‘gender reveal event gone wrong’. He’d planned to announce the sex with explosive powder that he would fire for guests in a national forest – and would naturally be either blue or pink. Unfortunately for Dennis, he shot the target but it triggered an explosion – and set fire to 47,000 acres of Arizona.

What’s wrong with a simple but traditional baby naming event or 100 day ceremony? Of course these days a lot of it is down to social media.  A friend recently returned from a holiday in Bali where she witnessed a group of women (possibly on a hen-do) sitting patiently on the pool deck dressed in towelling head-wraps and dressing gowns while they were professionally snapped – presumably for a #postspa post. Although they never actually made it to the treatment rooms. They were then photographed smiling over a delicious-looking plant-based breakfast that nobody ate. And then on the beach with surf boards that never touched the water. Gone are the days when such a do involved a Kodak roll of 24 photos on a disposable camera (23 of which came back over-exposed or blurred) and everyone staggered back to the hotel appallingly drunk on flaming sambucas and clutching a kebab.

The list of ‘special’ events we are now expected to celebrate is reaching epic proportions. Heaven forbid I sound like an old grump, but I do struggle with the need to commercialise practically every aspect of our lives. I’ll go with Mothering Sunday as it is an historic and religious occasion. But Father’s Day? Most men I know are ambivalent about their own birthday, so a day celebrating their abilities – to be a dad? – always seems a bit of an effort for all concerned. And the Blonde Child has taken part in no less than three graduation ceremonies (nursery, kindie and early primary) and we’re still not sure if she’ll ever reach university. But hey, it’s all good Facebook fodder.

Back in our Australian days, I was once invited to a baby shower. As an English girl of a 1980s and ‘90s sort of vintage, I’d never actually been asked to such a thing, but it was a long-term friend expecting her first child. So, despite the two-hour drive and my misgivings about spending an afternoon cooing over baby photos with a bunch of women I didn’t know, I felt I should go and support her. My husband was already committed to a charity soccer match that afternoon so I packed the two-year-old Teen Child and the six-month-old Tween Child into the car and set off. Babies at a baby shower? Surely that was the done thing?

“Oh! You brought the kids!” exclaimed the mother-to-be with a stiff smile as I staggered through the front door heaving nappy bags, potties, portacots and toys. I’m not sure where she had expected me to have hidden them. With grandparents 17,000 kilometres away in London the babysitting options were limited. I’d tried bunging the cleaner an unspecified wad of cash the previous Thursday, but she had smiled sympathetically and assured me she had ‘plans’ for the weekend. Fair enough.

The afternoon progressed predictably enough. There were some pretty cringe-worthy ‘games’ involving ‘dirty’ nappies and baby photos, some champagne (“You’re not drinking?” simpered a godmother-to-be. “Why didn’t you book to stay over so you wouldn’t have to drive home?” Because I’d actually rather stick nappy pins in my eyes than juggle a toddler and a baby overnight in the Avoca Beach Hotel, but hey). None of the guests had children and all looked suitably appalled when the toddler had a meltdown when she wasn’t allowed to play with the tray of expensively-decorated cupcakes and the baby started smelling rather fruity.

“Gosh, I’d forgotten what a handful children can be!” the grandmother-to-be murmured diplomatically as I made my excuses to depart, no doubt regretting the unlimited babysitting and daycare support she’d magnanimously offered her daughter previously that afternoon.

But then again, ten years on and there are even business opportunities for ‘influencer’ grandparents. So throw the party, upload it to social media, keep the economy rolling. Sadly the only event I have on my iCal this weekend is for a beach clean-up.