Sunday, April 6, 2008
Surviving a birthday
We celebrated on Saturday. The rescheduled party went off without any major hitches, or at least that was my impression. Candles were spat upon, cake was eaten, presents were torn open…and the kid had a blast.
The funniest moment was the cake. This is the first year Marcus has given a hoot about cake; the first year he wouldn’t touch it, the second year he wouldn’t touch it, and now? He’s discovered how wonderful it is. But the cake itself wasn’t the funny part: it was his befuddled expression as he stood on a chair, sampling some icing, taking in our off-key happy birthday serenade. He was a bit uneasy—excited but concerned, happy but not quite comfortable with the whole center-of-attention thing.
It brought home to me the fact that we adults tend to dramatize events to the point of excess sometimes. I had started to build up the party a bit much, and then the whole fever/postponement occurred, and we sort of dropped the subject so as not to make him terribly upset about the delay. Honestly, he didn’t mind; he barely mentioned the fact that the party hadn’t happened, even though he’d talked about it and he had seemed to be anticipating it. His dad and I were more disappointed than he was. (Mostly, I was bummed because this meant the duplication of cleaning tasks that I’d thought were complete for awhile…)
But the new party date loomed, and I couldn’t help bringing it up again, several times. It took me until the day before the rescheduled affair to discern his party skittishness. I finally came out and asked him, “Do you want to have a birthday party?” And his answer, in a clear little voice, was surprising but not terribly so: “No, not really.” I had to stop everything and explain that no party meant no big cake, no presents, no fun visits from family. That changed his mind some, we talked more, and finally he was saying, “Yes, I do want to. I do.”
But his uncertainty was evident again, if for just a moment, as he contemplated the cake, the crowd, the song, the fact that it was all for him. And then, he got over it. He ate some cake, scurried away to lay low, played with his new loot. The big solo minute was over, and now he could simply luxuriate in the benefits of temporary stardom: a sugar high and new toys.
I’ll have to remember not to talk so much about upcoming milestones, changes, big deals. There must be at least a little bit of me in that kid—I recognized that expression on his face, and I’ll remember next time that less information isn’t always a bad thing.