It was my son Charlie’s sixth birthday party and there were 20-plus mini Ninjas in our backyard. Loud and free they were screaming, jumping and laughing – the sound like balm to the soul, and a gentle reminder that innocence is not always lost.
There were tears of course. The untimely, unfortunate demise of a balloon animal made by the ninja party entertainer who we hired because, like I said, there were 20 of them and we knew we would need reinforcements.
Nearing the end, we’d just sung Happy Birthday and I was preoccupied by how I was going to cut up the ninja cake while 15 of the 20 kids were shrieking orders at me. The bossy little things can barely use their own cutlery but here they were shouting advice on how I was to cut the cake. Sheesh.
On This Glorious Mess, we discuss the correct etiquette for kids’ parties. Post continues below.
In the background I could hear the coaxing and coercing of boys telling Charlie to kiss the little girl beside him. You know the tradition: if you touch the bottom of the cake with your knife you must kiss the nearest person.
My generation spent our childhood singing to songs about kissing in trees so my initial thought was that it was funny. Cute. But Charlie was standing right beside me, my child, whose body nestles right into the curve of my own – and because he is me, my bat signal went off and I sensed he felt uncomfortable.
I didn’t want to have a disproportionate reaction to a ‘nothing’ situation, but in that tiny pocket of time the thought crossed my mind that this was a moment I was probably required to parent my way through.
I turned to Charlie on my right and whispered to him that he didn’t have to do anything, and I turned to the match-makers on my left and handed them both a giant piece of ninja cake and told them whoever ate the fastest could have a second piece.
My little boy is only six and suddenly I’m dealing with the beginnings of consent, and I do not know how this bit of parenting is meant to go.
Party over, the thought lingered on, but I didn’t give it too much energy. I put my head back in the sandpit – he’s six, not sixteen after all.
That is, until a week later, when SBS aired its new series The Hunting.
It was compelling to watch. As a parent to a small person who knows nothing of social media, it would be easy to pretend it’s not something I have to worry about it. It’s not our current reality but the unrelenting evolution of technology means it will most definitely be our future one.
That’s a terrifying thought.
My experience of parenting so far has been many things. Tiring, messy, humbling, terrifying, frustrating, chaotic and buckets of fun. But it has recently dawned on me that it hasn’t yet really been complex and complicated. The consequences of poor parenting decisions (and there have been many) haven’t really surfaced and nothing dire has happened.