Is a “virtual” birthday party
worth the actual effort?

My son says “COVID just means one lot of bad news after another”.  Sure, at first he was super keen not to go to school each day and hang around in his PJs until whenever it suited him to get dressed (if at all), but then he realised that he still has school work to complete and without the benefit of being able to play and socialize with his school mates.  Boredom set in quickly. His Dad and I have discovered that he is the type of child who externally processes everything as he does it. He chats to himself. He sings songs as he works. It’s both entertaining and challenging when we are all working from home in our little house. We knew he was like this but now realise what his teachers have been dealing with for the past 7 years! They are angels.

What has been his greatest struggle has been the constant ‘bad news’ he keeps getting. AFL training is cancelled. School cricket has been cancelled. Tennis lessons held on there for a few weeks but are now cancelled. The Giants AFL games at first were on Kayo but now sadly…… cancelled. He can’t play sport with his friends and he has been going for a bike ride by himself most days when it’s not raining. It’s not easy being a kid right now.

Then he was invited to a virtual birthday party for his best friend this Wednesday afternoon…….a what? That was my first thought. I replied “Sure, he’d love to attend – how does that work?” and then his mum sent through a message listing the ingredients for the party – one straw, 3 inflated balloons, a cookie, a packet of skittles, 2 bowls, the pie piece from a Trivial Pursuit game…and so on.  It took me 2 trips to 2 different supermarkets to find what he needs for the party, especially when along with toilet paper, it seems like everyone is stocking up on party balloons in our area for some reason!

The virtual party started at 3:30pm by clicking on a private meeting link (this meant only those invited could attend). My son had been excited all day and even got out of his PJs by 9am! At first there was a lot of confusion and feedback as 20 something children (and some frantic parents) tried to work out how to mute sound and set up camera views. Over the next hour, our living room was filled with chattering boys, balloons popping, laughter and just a little bit of crazy as they balanced cookies on their foreheads, tried to eat skittles with teaspoons, stacked 5 apples on top of each other, and generally tried to make each other laugh.  What seemed to make it work well was the ongoing activities the birthday boy’s mum had planned. It kept them all engaged, active, competitive and the total opposite of boredom! After the party ended and everyone disconnected, I asked him what he liked the most and he said “The lollies and coming equal second in the games.” Now doesn’t that sound familiar.

Are virtual celebrations just for kids? Absolutely not. One evening this week a family friend contacted us on WhatsApp and invited us to be a part of her husband’s birthday dinner and cake cutting. As we all sat around our respective dinner tables, shared a few laughs and sang happy birthday, I realized that we hadn’t been able to celebrate his birthday together for many years, and they only live in the very next suburb.

If there can be a silver lining for this time when we are all house-bound and safely behind our own doors, it can be the creative ways technology is keeping our family traditions alive and well. Loneliness and boredom are strong motivators for us to actively find ways to stay connected and ensure our kids don’t miss out on living, but instead, have their lives filled with new experiences which may never have occurred without these restrictions being placed on us.

I encourage you to celebrate these life events with your families and friends instead of simply thinking ‘it’s all too hard this year’ or ‘we will celebrate when life calms down’. Who knows what 2021 will bring? So, don’t wait…get dressed up, bake a cake, invite your friends, blow out some candles and ‘go virtual’.


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