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What my 4-year-old taught me about sober curious birthdays

Updated: Feb 11

by Denise Hamilton-Mace

This weekend was my youngest's 4th birthday. My baby girl is no longer a baby and has somehow managed to wrangle herself a 3-day celebration, with her nursery friends celebrating her on Friday, a football party on Saturday, to which she only invited only a select few guests, and a special Grandma party on Sunday.

Kids party plates & cups & streamers on a white table

I remember when my birthday celebrations used to last three days as well. Well, I say remember, what I mean is I remember them in theory. Pre-loading at home, then cheap bubbles at a mate's house, then off to pub-1, followed swiftly by pubs-2, 3 & 4, followed by club-1, after a quick stop off to visit a special friend for some "party favours", then club-2, the after-party, and finally the dread as the sun came up – rinse and repeat for duration of weekend until friend group resembles the reject cast from Human Traffic* (could that film have been more accurate? I don't think it could!)

Now, at the ripe old age of 44 (I've just found out that I've been getting my own age wrong for months now and telling people I was still 43, if that's not a sign of ageing then I don't know what is) I find my birthday parties far more resemble my daughter's than my past self's: good friends – real good friends – whose names I actually know and remember and are there because they were carefully selected; sunny days in the park or a BBQ in the garden with great food (because I can afford that now that I'm not stopping off to make a "purchase" for the night; and time with family who I love and can actually enjoy spending time with now rather than racing to get away from them – rinse and repeat for duration of weekend until satisfied and happy.

I rest peacefully knowing that while I've still got a shed load of work to do, I'll still have all my mental faculties and not be playing a game of 'dodge the boss' for fear of instant dismissal if he gets close enough to see the 'nothing' in my eyes.

Over the last few years, as I have begun drinking less (and twice been pregnant), low/no-alc special occasions for hubby and I have included great days out like relaxing in the rooftop Roman Spas in Bath, dinner and new and interesting restaurants (anyone for Portuguese?), days spent sunning myself in festivals like Pub in the Park and monkeying around at Go Ape.

What I love most about all of this is the release of pressure that not thinking about booze affords. I no longer have to plan my days or nights out around where, when and how I'll get my next drink (or anything else).

If we go to the pub after and have a drink that's fine and if we don't then that's fine too. I finally feel like I can relax - properly relax - without the need to sneak bottles of wine into the festival via the baby's pram, because what security guard would dare check in there (true story).

It feels like being sober curious has given me a reset button which I can use to re-do all those wild nights and equally wild days. It doesn't erase them, and truth be told, I wouldn't want it to, but I feel unspeakably lucky that I get a few do-overs, and now I intend to celebrate each birthday with the joy and abandon of my 4-year-old and wake up just as fresh as she does every morning (we'll almost, I am still 44!).


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