Birthday Blunders

by Vicki Nunn

I can sympathise with kids and adults that have a birthday around Christmas time, who are inevitably given one extra large gift to cover both events. My younger brother and sister were born in early January and hated those big combined gifts. I guess it seemed to them that they were being cheated somehow, and felt that they hadn’t done anything to deserve it.

Years ago, when I was studying education at a local college, I remember being fascinated by how the minds of children worked. For one course I carried out some experiments on seven year old children. (Now don’t jump to any conclusions – I’m not referring to some horribly torturous mind-altering experiment like forcing them to watch our politicians on TV … nobody could be that cruel!) Rather I showed the children two containers of different heights that held identical amounts of water.

I demonstrated this by pouring the contents of one container into the other and then back. Then I asked the children which container held more. In every instance the child pointed to the taller container and claimed adamantly, “That one has more.”

Even when I repeated the experiment, explaining and demonstrating that each container held the same amount as the other, when I repeated my question, each child, without hesitation, pointed to the taller container and stated again that it held the most water.

Now if you keep this fact in mind when buying gifts for younger children, you will realise that all you need to do is give them a larger present than anybody else, even if it only cost you $3, and that child will think you are the most wonderful person in the entire world… well, at least for the next five minutes.

Don’t divulge this principle to another living soul unless you want to compete with them. All the same though, you should be prepared to have to outdo some grandmothers, who for some reason like to give gigantic underpants as presents.

Don’t knock giant undies though! If the kids don’t wear them, they can always use them as parachutes, or as giant slings for launching rockmelons … or for launching little brothers.

And while I would never admit to flinging my little brother out of a home-made undie slingshot (photos available at just $1 each), I can relate to kids who have had disappointing birthdays because of some truly  traumatic experiences of my own. Sob!

My birthday always fell at the same time as carnival week in our town during winter, so my mother refused to throw me a party because my friends couldn’t afford to go both to the carnival and my birthday party, let alone buy me a gift.

For some reason that I still can’t fathom, most kids preferred going to the carnival over spending time in my magnificent company. I can remember the one time that I finally talked my mum into throwing me a small shindig, and only one person turned up – my best friend! Yep, just one single person came, and she left early because she was feeling too cold.

Truly tragic isn’t it, and yet there was worse. Hard to believe isn’t it?

One birthday, which I will forever refer to as “Black Sunday,” my parents made me wait until after we’d attended church before they proudly gave me my ninth birthday gifts. There were two presents that year:

  • a Bible;

  • and a pair of hideous brown, suede shoes

… the ugliest shoes on a planet otherwise full of delightfully dainty, patent, black leather princess shoes.

Oh the trauma of my then young life! (Feel free to throw in a sigh and an overly dramatic shudder at this point.)

My sympathies to you if you’ve suffered similar heartbreak. Oh, and if a pair of hideous, brown suede shoes ever turned up in your backyard sometime in the 1970s, I promise that I have put away my home-made giant undie slingshot, well, at least for the moment. Besides, my younger brother no longer fits into it.