When I was discharged from hospital after having Daughter six years ago, I was sent home with painkillers, blood pressure and water tablets and a rather large dose of maternal guilt. The drugs were for a week or so, but the guilt was to be taken liberally several times a day.
The guilt is largely about two things. The first is not being there. Not for the school drop off. Or pick up. Or to be a 'helper' in her class. Or to take one of her friends home from school for tea, and 'everyone else has someone for tea all the time'. I should get a different job she said, so I can be there to do that.
The second is about not giving her a sister (or a dog, because I'm allergic). We tried, we succeeded, but it wasn't to be. We have tried to explain that you can't guarantee a sister, but that falls on deaf ears. And really, she doesn't want a baby sister, she wants a ready made five year old sister to play with right now.
So, in order to compensate for my epic fails, I try to really step up where I can. And the last opportunity I had to do this was for the big 6th birthday.
The first chance I had to put a shed load of extra work in was sourcing the invitations. Barbie, she'd decided. No problem, I thought. But it turns out that she's not quite as easy to get hold of as you might think. But it gave me the chance to put plenty of time in sourcing them and medicating my guilt.
(Some of you will disapprove of Barbie. I get your concern. Is she a suitable role model? We'll let me tell you we now have the Dream House mansion thing in our dining room and I personally think the girl's done good. But each to their own.)
But the big chance came when I got the idea to make her a Barbie cake. No nipping down to Asda for a ready made version for me. I mightn't be able to pick her up from school, but I could stay up half the night making one to show her how much I love her. Mother made our birthday cakes every year, still does and they still look the same. When someone makes you a cake, it's like a message of love on a plate. So, if a cake says 'I love you', what would my Barbie extravaganza say? Probably 'I love you and you have me wrapped around your perfectly formed little finger'.
So, I'd seen a picture...how hard could it be?
The first hurdle was what to cook it in. Option one was apparently to bake a number of sponge cakes, stack them and then then carve them into shape. Hmm. Sounded a bit trickier than I'd anticipated, but of course did give plenty of scope for assuaging guilt and stepping up. However, I decided there was nothing gained from giving Barbie a hideous deformity and so had to look further afield. Option two was to buy a tin. Having exhausted my borrowing options quite quickly ( there's only Z that embraces home baking in my circle of friends, and the Head of Catering at work drew a blank), it became clear I was going to have another opportunity to demonstrate dedication by researching and then buying said tin.
Then there was the decorating to think about. A lunchtime abandoned to comparing edible diamonds, sugar roses and pink balls (if in doubt, buy all) and I was ready to roll (not the icing, it bought that ready-rolled, ha ha)
So, the big bake began. Half way through I realised I'd underestimated the size of the tin and had to suspend the proceedings for an emergency dash to the nearest shop. That done, I metaphorically sat back and waited for it to cook. And waited. And waited. Eventually it appeared to be done and my job was done for the night.
The next day was all about the decorating. And I also discovered that loom bands make excellent Barbie bobbles. To be fair, I quite enjoyed the decorating so it didn't have the guilt repayment value it should have. Anyway, Barbie eventually looked like this:
(And then eventually like this...)
Did she say 'I'm tastier than a brother or sister and quite frankly people will be more impressed?' She did say 'please ignore the icing in my hair' though.
So eventually it was party day. The many surrendered lunchtimes culminated in bags and bags of stuff to make the party look pretty and help 30 odd six year olds have fun. Did I see the fun? No. I spent most of the party willing heat resistant fries to cook to accompany their very accommodating and quick cooking hot dog buddies, accompanied as always by Mother, who surely has no mother guilt to pay for having been ever-present.
Did Daughter miss me at the party? I don't think so. Did she have a brill time and tell me it was her best birthday ever? Yep. Will I ever not feel guilty? I doubt it. All I can do is try and make the big (and little) things count. Oh, and keep doing the lottery...