Toddler Birthday Parties - Alyvia turns 3!

A planned birthday party is supposed to be dissimilar to an unpredicted medical emergency but after hosting a birthday party for Alyvia, the day became comparable to the unpredicted emergency.

We booked the venue, cake, decided on decorations, entertainment and food all in advance. We knew how much time to allocate to each section of the party and mostly, all went according to plan. What didn’t go according to plan was my very own toddler, Sophia!!!

In an emergency situation in hospital, there are dedicated individuals who are allocated tasks to focus on in any event. This way we ensure that when addressing or identifying a problem, each area has been examined or treated.

During a cardiac arrest for example, we have a team leader (usually me unfortunately), person to concentrate solely on chest compressions, the person in charge of establishing intravenous lines and taking blood, someone to check all medical documents, someone to document timings and actions and someone to manage the patient’s airway.

We all manage our roles in order to ensure we have done all that is required. And let me tell you, it is chaotic and there are surprises butthere can only be a finite amount of surprises in each given scenario.

In a similar fashion, during Alyvia’s birthday party, many people had roles eg entertainer, decorator, food distributor…Alyvia’s role was to have fun and Sophia’s role was NOT to throw any tantrums. I guess that was too much to ask!!!

Consideration for Sophia’s role in particular was taken into account and we endeavoured to be completely prepared. The timing of the birthday party was 4pm…well after her afternoon nap so that she would be in a good mood. We ensured that she slept a little longer than usual that day so tiredness would certainly not be a barrier. She was fed before her nap and given a snack after her nap, on this particular day; she had a yoghurt…her favourite snack (in fact she would have yoghurt for all three meals if she could). We also dressed her in something comfortable so that she didn’t feel restrained from running around. In our eyes, she was adequately prepared for her role NOT to have a tantrum.

As soon as we arrived at the venue, Sophia transformed into tantrum queen and did not want to cooperate. She didn’t want to get off clever doc’s lap. The only time she did, was to be transferred to my lap! Obviously confused as to why she was behaving like this, we assumed she may be hungry so offered her some food but most of it ended up on the floor. When we returned the item of food to her hand, she threw it back in our faces! Even when my patient’s complain about the tasteless hospital food, I have yet to have any thrown in my face!

The room where all the entertainment was happening, where Alyvia was having fun with her friends and where we had no opportunity to take any pictures of our daughter on her third birthday party, was where Sophia screamed the most. We had to take it in turns to go outside in the freezing cold to calm her down. I prefer to describe it as making her cold on purpose so that she stopped wailing. If I did this at work, this would be termed as patient torture and would no doubt be contacted by the PALS (patient advice and liaison) department! As soon as we came back into the venue she became difficult again. Alyvia performed part of a magic trick…neither of us were there to watch it. She also took part in other activities in which neither of us could be there to support her. Over the years will we be in this predicament during school concerts, sports days and other achievements where she would like her parents to be present?

Meanwhile, Sophia had mastered wriggling out of my grasp, but dragging my clothes down (or off) on her way down. She also showcased her head flip where she thrusts herself backwards while she is being carried on your hip. This manoeuvre is not only dangerous but usually results in her getting WHATEVER she wants as there is a small risk she could damage her spine with such movement.

Sophia doesn’t like salmon but loves bread and whilst all the salmon and cream cheese bagels that were offered to her were bagel minus salmon, she could still taste it. That managed to ignite even more anger from her where she thought we were tricking her into eating something she didn’t like. The result was throwing all bread that she came into contact with at whoever was trying to console her…much to my embarrassment!

When we left her to cry for a second, she ran onto the hard concrete floor and flung herself onto her knees howling with tears. She then proceeded to lie on her back crying, banging her head and then howling from the pain. I dared not make eye contact with any parent, as I am sure they were looking at me in pity. Who wouldn’t? I would look at myself in pity.

Whilst all of this was happening, the children began to leave the entertainment room all while the entertainer was still there! There had been no sign from either of us to slow things down…our dread was that the kids were getting bored.

It turned out, they were getting hungry and so we signaled to the entertainer to wrap things up and ushered everyone to the main eating hall. Luckily, here there were several toys that we pointed out to Sophia. She finally got herself busy with playing while Alyvia and her friends ate. I was sure Sophia would not eat and didn’t want to rock the boat. We cut the cake and everyone slowly started to go home. The emptier the venue became, the more Sophia relaxed. We were absolutely exhausted despite doing nothing! I felt like I had done a 36-hour shift with back-to-back emergencies, no food and no sleep!

Greeting Alyvia’s friends’ parents superficially and excusing ourselves to tend to our second daughter was the jist of the party. We had no words when fellow parents would offer their ‘pearls of wisdom’ to help with the situation. The cynic in me thought some may have even been a little smug about their own children behaving so well.

Moving forward and hopefully managing not to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder from the event, I still do not know what went wrong and why she behaved in the way she did. In medicine, there is usually a reason that something happens and if it is not identified straight away, it will become apparent shortly afterwards but with Sophia and her moods, we would sooner work out the cure for cancer and even all of the functions of the human brain before working out the cure for her temperament!

I wish all you parents out there luck and strength if this or anything similar happens to you. Just know, you are not alone!

Until the next time, have a lovely day! xxx

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