November 30, 2010

Birthday Blunders

I can sympathise with kids and adults who have a birthday around Christmas time who inevitably get one really big 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 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, and I'm not referring to some horribly torturous mind-altering experiments like forcing them to watch our politicians on TV – even I'm not that cruel. Rather I showed the children two containers of different heights that held the same amount of water. 

I demonstrated that both containers held the same amount by pouring the contents of one into the other and back. Then I asked the children which container held more in it. In every instance the child pointed knowingly to the taller container and said, "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 asked the same question again, each child, without hesitation, pointed to the taller container and said that it held the most.

Now if you keep this fact in mind when buying gifts for children, you will know that all you need to purchase is something bigger than anybody else has bought them and you will instantly become their favourite person in the world, at least for five minutes. 

Don't divulge this principle to another living soul or be prepared to have to outdo Grandma, who always gives gigantic underpants.

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 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've had disappointing birthdays because of some truly traumatic experiences of my own. 

My birthday always fell in the same week as the Show (exhibition) week and every year that I wanted a party, my mum would say no because the other kids could only afford to attend the show or my birthday party, but not both. For some reason that I still can't fathom, most kids preferred going to the Show over spending time in my company.

I can remember one time I talked my mum into finally throwing me a small shindig, and only my best friend turned up! Yep, just one single person, and she left early because she the weather was too cold and she couldn't stop shivering. Truly tragic isn't it? And yet there was worse.

One birthday, which I will forever refer to as "Black Sunday", my parents made me wait until we got home from church before they proudly gave me my ninth birthday gifts. There were two gifts that year: a Bible and a pair of 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!

My sympathies to you if you've suffered similar heartbreak. 

Oh, and if a pair of ugly brown suede shoes ever turned up in your backyard some time 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.

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