On birthdays, babies and rainbow jellies

Amanda Thompson, who knows a thing or two about first birthdays, reckons this momentous day should be marked with celebratory jellies of multiple hues. 

Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford turns one today! Happy birthday to our own First Baby, the National Bubba, our cutest taonga. I don’t care what your politics are, all babies are great and all first birthdays are the greatest so I am declaring the First Birthday of the First Baby the Greatest Great Birthday Day. If someone wants to pass around one of those Facebook petitions calling for a public holiday to mark the occasion, I will sign it.

I have to admit to a personal interest in the Greatest Great Birthday Day on the 21st of June – my own First Baby was born on that day, too, on a wild night of drama and fear and blood. This having babies stuff doesn’t always make a cute Insta story, just so you know. And neither does the whole parenthood gig, since I’m giving you the real talk. The first year can be a shock. For every time you are filled with the joy of parenthood there will be a dozen times you are caught in the rain in the Countdown carpark with everything defrosting and a screaming toddler going stiff with rage at the sight of their car seat and who will definitely kick you just as some old lady goes past saying “well somebody just needs a good smack”, which is super unhelpful thank you very much Marjorie. As much as you might love your babies, it can be a slog, a grind and a marathon raising the next generation of taxpayers for the benefit of the entire nation. To counteract all of this I fully recommend holding epic First Birthday Parties.

Don’t feel any pressure to get all fiddly and Pinterest and stuff, or spend a million bucks – it’s a celebration not a competition, people! Invite everyone you’ve ever met with a baby, your family, anyone, around for a knees-up. Boldly suggest that the grandparents come up with the catering, and who cares what it is as long as there is also something alcoholic for the grown-ups. I feel very strongly about this one; you deserve a wine, my friend – it was your First Year, too. Laugh until you cry. Leave balloons lying all over the floor like your lounge is a giant ball pit for the day and the one-year-olds will be in heaven.

Taste the rainbow (Photos: Amanda Thompson)

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Let it all out, let all your hairs down, let it all go. Good on you for mashing your own organic baby veg the other 364 days of the year, but forget it today. Don’t be that guy trying to make a point about how your vegan raw food cheesecake is just as delicious as the bright blue birthday cake with edible Paw Patrol cake topper from Pak’nSave, because we all know it’s not. Kids’ birthday parties have been about artificially coloured sausages and fairy bread since forever ago and why spoil that now? The everyday world is grim enough, Marjorie. Let there be rainbow jellies today.

I always make these as individual servings because little kids get a weird joy out of Having My Own One. They also love being trusted with a Grown-Up Glass (for very little kids I use plastic ones.) I bought this whole lot of fancy glasses from the second-hand shop for a dollar and the lady behind the counter said I was doing them a favour, really, because nobody wants that stuff any more and they don’t have room. But the kids love them. Making the actual jelly is very simple – it took me one afternoon in between doing other boring things to make all of this fine sugary nonsense. Just buy any packet jellies in the shop, in any colours, and boil the kettle. If you use one cup of boiling water to dissolve the jelly crystals and then add one of cold, the mixture will be cool enough to put straight into a glass and will set in the fridge in about an hour, ready for the next colour. I make two at once and let the kids decide which ‘stripe’ goes where. It’s easy, easy fun.

Although my children are older now, old enough to do all manner of adulty things I probably don’t want to know about, I still made the rainbow jellies this week. And even now they wanted to help make them, and were breathing down my neck the whole time wanting to know when they would be ready to eat. Nobody is too old for a celebratory jelly.

To end a whole year of parenting with a happy child and mostly intact parental sanity is a huge achievement and I don’t think we reward this enough. Take a day a year to remember what is so sweet and positive and fun about having children and don’t let Marjorie win – fight her with rainbow jelly.


The Spinoff’s food content is brought to you by Freedom Farms. They believe talking about food is nearly as much fun as eating it, and they’re excited to facilitate some good conversations around food provenance in Aotearoa New Zealand.


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