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When I planned the Little Mister’s 2nd birthday party, I did not have many big ideas. I just wanted a simple family gathering at our house. I didn’t feel the need to pay hundreds of dollars on catering or decorations. I didn’t want to spend hundreds of hours making some kind of Pinterest fantasy come true. I’ve always considered myself to be pretty bullish*t immune when it comes to this stuff and as my husband and I had exhausted ourselves providing a ridiculous (although successful) sit down meal for the Little Mister’s 1st birthday party, we decided to take it easy this year (we never want to see that much lasagne ever again)!
I’m the kind of gal who rolls her eyes at people who are a little OTT with this stuff. I’m not judging (mostly), but in my mind all I’m thinking is, AS IF I’D EVER PUT MYSELF THROUGH THAT. Maybe I’m just lazy?
Anyhow, a sausage sizzle with a few fun finger foods it would be. Our families aren’t massive eaters (over catering by accident can be an issue), so I knew I wouldn’t have to go crazy. We’d just have to clean the house (no mean feat with a two year old underfoot), buy a few simple decorations and hey presto! Party! The Little Mister would be so busy enjoying everyone’s company (and presents of course) that he’d have a great time. That was all that mattered.
I started thinking about the cake. I could make cupcakes again, I thought. I’m good at those! Or…I could get a cool cake from a cake shop I’ve been dying to try out, I thought! Oh, but the bank balance wouldn’t like that – expensive time of year. I’d rather spend that money on presents.
Somehow, I started thinking that I could not only bake a proper birthday cake on my own, but I could somehow create the Little Mister’s dream cake! Which in hindsight is a little ridiculous, as any cake is the Little Mister’s dream cake. Because it’s cake. Duh. But it was too late for me to be rational. I had seen a recipe online that looked really easy (as they always do). I would create a car shaped cake. Without the use of a mould or any special tools. All the ingredients required would be easily available at the local supermarket and I would be cheating. I’d use cake mix. See? I’m a no muss no fuss gal. I’m so cool with that. It will be a piece of cake! Yeah, yeah. Lame pun.
I got really excited for the whole week leading up to the party. I thought I could get all clever and change the colour of the car cake, as well as customise the shape (and size – brave). I even had bloody dreams that I was baking, only to wake up and feel sad it was only a dream! Yes. I had become that mum. The mum who fussed too much because of a fear of not doing it ‘good enough’.
Oh, gosh I could kick myself!
I baked the cake the day before the party and I was so excited when it rose and cooked through perfectly. I’m so not a master chef, in case anyone was wondering. This was a big deal. I love baking but I rarely have any idea what I’m doing and I stick to the easy stuff! I’m not usually brave!
The day of the party, Mr Unprepared and I were rushing about doing last minute things before our guests were due to arrive. I had to get on with decorating the cake. It wasn’t like in my dreams. I didn’t have all the time and energy in the world to nail it. I felt rushed, a bit anxious and I didn’t slow down enough to think things through carefully. I cut into the cake a bit too deeply. My husband was buzzing about, with well meaning advice, but I was too ‘sensitive’ (read: cray cray) to listen. I feel horrible but I snapped at him. A lot. Sh*t was tense. I managed to somehow salvage the shape of the cake, but I just had this dreadful feeling this was not the end of my woes. I was right. I rushed through the mixing of the icing. It was supposed to be this gorgeous, thick, creamy, buttery texture. It became more like a runny glaze. I tried to make it thicker, but there was nothing I could do (within my limited knowledge) to really reverse my mistake. I started to apply the frosting. It slid down the cake and was translucent. Because I’d changed the colour from red to green (the Little Mister’s favourite colour of the moment), it didn’t disguise the chocolate cake underneath very well. It looked half done and…pathetic.
Then I did it. I leaned against the fridge and bawled. I was a failure. I’d failed. This cake looked like sh*t. The guests (our beloved families) would think it was so lame. I’d never be able to recover. My cake looked like it belonged on some internet meme labelled “Cake Fail”. I felt like I’d failed the Little Mister. There was no time to make something else. I would have to make it work. I tried my hardest to stand back and see it through loving eyes (and not my own super critical ones). I thought maybe once I attached the liquorice wheels and the special bits and bobs to give it personality, it wouldn’t seem so bad.
I wiped away tears as I kept slaving away. My husband had been banished from the house (so I couldn’t accuse him of anything horrible like LOOKING AT ME WRONG) and the Little Mister was feeling restless and wanted to know why I couldn’t play.
Yeah, in hindsight…bit melodramatic…I’ll own it. But only because I have a feeling I’m not the only one who’s been there at some point.
The time came when I had to down my tools and admit I’d done all I could. I would have to accept it for what it was. I’d have to smile for my family and just get on with it. Into the fridge it went…
Yep. There it is. In all its glory. Runny icing. Lopsided shape.
…That there in the picture is my Little Mister’s finger. He was so excited. THRILLED. You should have seen his face.
“CAR CAR CAKE CAKE CAR CAR!!!”
He knew what it was meant to be. He loves cars. He loves cakes. In his eyes, I had created a masterpiece.
The liquorice fanatics in the family started putting dibs on who would get the wheels. Anyone else who maybe wasn’t sure what to think was very polite, ate it and smiled.
Everyone was focused on the Little Mister blowing out the candle (with a little help from his dad), and his enjoyment as he shoved an entire (luckily smallish) piece in his mouth with a look of glee. He was out of his mind with happiness.
I realised then that it didn’t matter that I hadn’t created something worthy of the best of Pinterest. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t Instagram worthy. It didn’t matter what anyone thought of it except the guest of honour. It was for him. And I made it.
I don’t know where in the party planning process, I turned into the mum that I vowed I never wanted to be, but it had happened.
I learnt a lesson. I don’t ever want to lose perspective over something so silly again. I am my own worst critic and I shouldn’t have let that get the better of me. The day was about love. Love for the Little Mister and the love of family. Yelling at my husband, being mean to myself, and being so obsessed about making it perfect (which it so never would be) that I didn’t have a little time for the Little Mister was not in that spirit.
The day was a great success and it would have been, whether there was a ridiculously good looking cake there or none at all. To me, the Little Mister thinking the sun shines out of my you-know-what, is just priceless. This won’t always be. I feel so lucky and it has nothing to do with how many decorations, guests, fancy canapés or award winning cakes a party has.
If he, at the tender age of 2, believes in me, then I should too.
My name is Kez and I made a hideous birthday cake for my child. I’m OK with that.
Next year? Simple might be best 😉