Just came back from my daughters' friends' birthday party. Nothing has ever scared me so much in life. It was not just a birthday party; it was like a perfectly planned orchestra.
So from the moment we entered the party hall dressed up in vivid hues of pink and blue with Disney characters dotting all the corners, there was not a moment to breathe.
It had the works - A magician, a tattoo artist, balloon craft, a emcee, coaxing willing and unwilling children into playing games which resulted in some children winning and others trying to put up a brave face.
Birthday parties have become a mini industry now. There are organizations that plan the entire event as they call it for the busy parents from decoration to games to food and make sure every moment in the party is structured and organized. And they obviously cost a whole lot of money as they design themes and backdrops that entice the innocent children and the trusting parents who end up paying an obscene amount of money for an hour of fun.
That got me thinking. What would my daughter be remembering 10 years from now? Would she remember the elaborately planned Cinderella birthday party?
I remember my favourite memory from childhood was something far simpler. I grew up in a middle class home in Kolkata. Powercuts were a frequent part of our childhood. And I still vividly remember those evenings. All of a sudden the lights would fade out. Lights would blink back in a few rich neighbourhood houses; the remaining houses would remain shrouded in darkness or glow in the faint flickering light of candles.
And there in our balcony with the summer breeze blowing and the candle flickering, my parents would tell me and my sister stories - ghost stories, war stories, stories about great people and stories about ancient history.
Some days we would just sing songs; all of us would join in and sing old and new songs alike.
It was like a magical world in the dark with the sound of the stories and the music. And when the lights came back, we returned back to the real world almost reluctantly.
I never had a Cinderella birthday party but I don't miss not having one. But I will forever remember those unhurried, unstructured moments in the balcony where our parents gave us their undivided time and attention.
Cut back to today's world. Hurried weekdays with both parents rushing off to work, the children running to school and daycare centres. Classes in the evening and during the weekends.
Are we organizing too much of our kids' lives? Fighting for the best schools, best summer camps during holidays, dancing lessons, swimming lessons, tennis classes, piano classes and not to forget the organized birthday parties?
Would they learn more and definitely enjoy more if we just let them be for a few hours? Let them dream and imagine and create their own games at leisure?