Brioni has held onto expectations for her sixth birthday. With all the recent visitors, she had created a list of people she’d like to have at her party, and she wanted something with all the trimmings — including cake and presents.

We haven’t really done birthday parties before. We have usually celebrated the girls’ milestones with cake and balloons, but since we’ve been travelling, it’s been hard to plan where we were and I’ve been reluctant to organise a party. And this year, Brioni’s list of invitees included people who live everywhere except in Brisbane … except for me.

So I talked about it with her, and I asked if Brioni would settle for a pink cake. Yes, she said, but she also wanted presents — things she didn’t have to share. (There went the Playmobil Fairytale set I’d planned on wrapping up — that’ll have to come out at another time.) Instead, I wrapped up a special pink watch and a crocheted skirt/shawl and put it on board the truck when we started our little trip to the northside of Brisbane earlier this week.

Brioni is a self-styled vegan. When approaching a new food item, she’ll ask, “Would a vegan eat this?” She refuses cheese and dairy and even chocolate in her powerful identity formation, and I respect her choices. Brisbane has only a few options for vegan cakes, and I don’t have an oven, so I flirted with the idea of a raw vegan cake, but my hesitation was this: it had to be yummy to a six-year-old.

Enter Julianne. She’s been my friend from before I fell pregnant with Aisha. We started our families together, although I continued having babies after she stopped, and she kept working after I stopped. She and her husband have renovated a beautiful Queenslander in Brisbane’s north, and it looks like something out of a magazine! Although our lives appear very different, we share confidences, honesty, a desire to raise our children in the best possible way and a common past.

Julianne offered to bake a cake for Brioni, and I sent her this recipe which did turn out well — thanks so much to Julianne! Not only was the icing pink, but the cake was too, and the birthday girl finished off her piece!

Brioni's sixth birthday party, August 2012
We're greeted with a party table, balloons, food, presents, lemonade and even cake!

Delaney with cheezels on her fingers, August 2012
Dell plays with her food.

Calista, Brioni and Sophie at Brioni's sixth birthday, August 2012
Brioni is delighted with her birthday cake and lines up the six candles in alternating colours.

Calista, Brioni and Sophie at Brioni's sixth birthday, August 2012
The moment of the big puff — and those watching also inhale a big breath on Brioni's behalf.

Brioni had so many expectations for this party, and although I could see which ones seemed unrealistic, she didn’t fathom the limitations imposed by life. A small game of pass-the-parcel resulted in a huge emotional outburst from Brioni, and it, too, was caused by unrealistic expectations.

It took Brioni a long time to recover from her disappointment and start playing again. Although I could sit with her and hold her while she experienced her sadness, I felt impatient on her behalf — wanting her to seize the opportunity to enjoy her party and the friends she was with. Until she was ready to come to this place within herself, she couldn’t start playing again.

I wonder how many things in life I am unable to appreciate because I am overwhelmed by my own emotional expectations. Certainly I didn’t envision inhabiting a world without David and Elijah. When I focus on my own disappointment in the path life has brought me on, then I stop looking at the scenery that is around me and appreciating what I do have. Although it’s okay to feel the gamut of emotions, I need to use Brioni’s example at her party as a wake-up call to myself and start participating in life fully, even though I may feel disappointed by past events.

Delaney and Brioni playing in the sandbox, August 2012
The girls are reluctant to exit the sand-box when it's time to leave.

It was wonderful to spend an afternoon with Julianne and her lovely children. Our loved playing, and this party has raised the bar on the other girl’s expectations for the future. Surely this isn’t a bad thing — experiencing a range of birthday parties is a wonderful way to grow up — and it’ll be interesting to see what we do in the future!

Thanks so much, for giving to our family in this way, Julianne. Brioni will treasure the memories of her sixth birthday — thanks especially to you!