I know a few people – my husband included – who don’t really get the birthday thing. To them, it’s just another day, no biggie. The thought of looking at Pinterest for party ideas gives them a headache and they can’t comprehend splashing out an extortionate amount of money on the latest trend present.
Sometimes, I wish I was like that. It would save me a whole lot of money, bother and exhaustion if I was. But I’m not. To me, birthdays are and always have been a HUGE deal. I’m the original birthday diva, stretching the celebrations out for as long as possible. I might be in my 30s but I still look forward to my birthday each year with excitement. So I can completely relate to my daughters’ excitement about their own birthdays.
Today, my eldest daughter turns seven. She’s been counting down the days to her birthday for weeks – months, even. Partly this is the prestige of turning a whole year older, but largely it’s because she was overwhelmed with excitement at all the birthday treats we had planned. The anticipation of it all is a huge part of the whole experience for her, so we talked about our plans lots beforehand, and she was really active in offering ideas and requests – most of them manageable (although the Justin Bieber singing at her party thing? Not so much).
The first on our list of birthday treats was a trip to the new Smiggle store in Plymouth. If you’ve missed the Smiggle craze then, trust me, it’s only a matter of time before you hear about it. There are now 100 stores in the UK (Plymouth is the 100th), and that’s only since 2014. The Australian stationery brand has literally swept across the country, catching kids and adults up in the Smiggle excitement.
Until a couple of months ago, I’d never heard of Smiggle. When my daughter came home from school asking to “go to Smiggle” I had literally no idea what she was talking about. A quick Google told me it was a shop selling stationery, bags, drinks cups, lip balm, and much much more, but all with a unique twist. At first I thought the brand might be Japanese, as I could imagine the bright coloured designs and graphics being at home in Tokyo. Loads of the products are scented, they’re all incredibly tactile and often feature quirky little characteristics (pencil crayons aren’t just pencil crayons – they’re colour changing, scented pencil crayons, for example).
Anyway, when I was invited along to visit the Plymouth store on the first day it opened, I knew it would make a fantastic pre-birthday treat for my almost-seven year old. Having banged on about it for months and months, it would be her first Smiggle experience and, hopefully, a great break from our usual Friday after-school routine.
So off we went….
OK, so I’m not going to pretend that schlepping half an hour away in a car to a busy shopping centre with two over-excited children is my ideal way to start a Friday evening. And I know that, for many, it’s not their idea of joy either. HOWEVER, my biggest girl’s excitement was infectious and it was impossible not to get caught up in it.
Everything from the moment I collected her from school with a change of clothes to the car journey into Plymouth (doesn’t take much to excite my country bumpkin, clearly!) to the shop itself was a huge deal for her. Ever since she was a baby she’s had this cute habit of flapping her arms when she gets excited, almost like a bird about to take off. Well let me tell you, she was flapping so hard on Friday I thought she was going to lift the car off the road!
As for me, I was won over by Smiggle too. The products are definitely on the pricier end of the stationery spectrum, but they’re so collectable, unique and tactile that you can see why they’re so popular. I loved the way the store was organised with products left out so kids could touch and feel them, playing with the various quirky features of each design. It was (as I said a few too many times in my vlog) a “sensory overload” and even the two year old was caught up in the excitement of sniffing the items to work out what they were scented as, or stroking various sequinned and faux fur bedazzled numbers.
It was a lovely way to start the birthday celebrations, so thanks for inviting us along Smiggle. Stay tuned for the next post on the birthday subject: the one about the pamper party.