Lyle’s 5th birthday party felt, at times, like a hilarious parody of a little kid’s birthday party.
First of all, you’ve got the birthday boy himself. One of his quirks is that he gets anxious about having a lot of attention on himself. He insisted on a small party at home, with just a very small group of kids he knows extra-well. I was so ready to invite more of his friends, but in the end the birthday boy won. Also this year, he has an aversion to people singing “Happy Birthday” to him. Oh, he’ll happily sing to you on your birthday, but just try singing it to him and you’ll get the look of death and probably some yelling. He didn’t even let our family sing it to him on his actual birthday. You’re supposed to just walk in quietly with the cake, say NOTHING, and then let him make a wish and blow out the candle. This may sound easy, but after nearly 4 decades of singing the damn song when someone is given cake it’s just not. I’m sure the other children found it unusual, but what the hell. I say “Own your quirks, kid…you might as well get comfortable with them now.” [One friend suggested that if that’s the worst quirk Lyle has to worry about, he’s doing great. I assured him it isn’t.]
Then we have the small problem of his complete lack of ability to wait for gifts. He’s always been this way; last year’s party was nearly ruined for me because while his friends sang and danced with our beloved music teacher, he clung to me and yell-whispered into my ear: WHEN CAN I OPEN THE PRESENTS?? And so I let him open them between the pizza and cake tonight, rather than at the end of the party. However. He cannot even focus on one opened gift until he has them all open. So he goes tear-assing through them and will not rest (or really notice what he’s opened) until they’re all unwrapped. It’s special, really special.
So that’s the birthday boy. Who, by the way, tripped on the sidewalk in our front yard while waiting for guests to arrive and got a big gash on his knee. As we cleaned it up and put a huge band-aid on it inside, he sobbed, “I didn’t think that would happen right before my birthday party!” How sad is that? So I had to carry him around for a while because it hurt him to move, which meant he was that much closer to my ear to ask when he could open those presents. Over and over again.
Within about 10 minutes of the knee injury, one of my best friends in the whole world had to rush into our house carrying her older son who was feeling a bit carsick and then spent the next half hour cleaning the bathroom, herself and her child, and handing me purple-stained laundry, because the poor child barfed some kind of purple smoothie all over the bathroom just after his arrival. (And we do publicly bow down to the Oxy-Clean gods, by the way…not a trace of purple remained!) He spent the entire party curled up asleep on our bed.
Laundry humming along, I had just gotten back down to the play area and was happy to see that Lyle was finally settling in and playing with his friends, when suddenly Lyle’s 3-year old friend from across the hall came flying down our entire flight of stairs, only to land with a bounce on the landing at the bottom. Incredibly, she did this almost silently; honest to god, it sounded like there was a stuffed animal being lobbed down the stairs, and we were all shocked to see an actual person land there. I jumped up from the floor, picked her up, and ran with her to her parents across the hall, hoping that when the silent scream broke we’d have made it to her house. Once she recovered from the shock she rejoined the party; thankfully she wasn’t hurt at all (especially since if she had been, picking her up and running with her probably wouldn’t have seemed like such a great choice).
Seriously, around this time I came across my husband and a friend in the hallway, placing bets on who would be next. “My family’s been completely untouched!” the friend said gleefully. At that point I went downstairs and made the kids stop jumping on the bed. It just seemed a bit too risky at this particular party.
There were only a couple of other minor incidents but no one else got hurt – or even vomited in technicolor! – so I think we can call the party a success. And, truly, it was. We had a great time with some of our favorite friends and once Lyle had made it to the other side of the cake and gift-opening he relaxed and really enjoyed himself.
But there’s nothing like a sequence of events like that to remind yourself that you’re still in the parenting trenches. Something tells me we’ll be laughing about this party for a long time to come.