“Mom, where are we going?”
“We’re going to Henry’s birthday party.”
This conversation played out multiple times on the four-hour trip from Moorhead to the metro area this past weekend with my five-year-old Dylan. The question came up again after we got to the hotel in St. Louis Park, and by the time the morning of the birthday party came around, Dylan had enough.
“When is this birthday party happening?” he exclaimed in the park that morning after breakfast.
“We’ll be going in an hour,” I said noticing the build-up of excitement in his little body in regard to cake, balloons and presents.
The time had come. We were going to the birthday party. The stuff dreams are made of for anybody 12 and under. A once-a-year blowout. Except one thing. The build-up in my little one’s mind was much different than the actual event. Because of this revelation:
“Dylan, it’s not YOUR birthday, it’s Henry’s birthday.”
I have confidence that my children will continue to learn ways (with the village’s guidance) to take turns, to share, to handle disappointment and to manage their emotions.
Birthday parties test a child’s coping mechanism to the max. In the case of Henry’s birthday party, I did have to haul my children away from the present-opening station with the Birthday King Henry as they were smothering their auntie and cousin with excitement and curiosity. Oh, the shiny paper! Oh, the balloons! (OBTW, Julia loved the balloon so much she bit one and it popped in her face. I think that lesson learned itself.) Oh, the new toys! Oh, the Happy Birthday song! Oh, the cake and ice cream!
As to not make too much of a disturbance, I led my children by the hand out of gift-opening time while chanting in a sing-song voice, “It’s not your birthday, it’s Henry’s birthday.”
You know what I did with my littles? I took them down to the lobby of the apartment building and put them in a shopping cart that was nearby for hauling groceries and gave them fun and silly rides for the next 20 minutes so young Henry could experience his birthday in all its glory. While I was giving rides, I asked the kids if they were having fun and Dylan said, “I just want it to be my birthday.”
I know, buddy, I know. As we grow into adults, we do a hell of a job tamping down that inner kid to adhere to the rules of etiquette in social situations and monitor levels of excitement in ourselves and our children to the “socially reasonable” setting. Although, in many instances, adults have the assist of the social lubricant alcohol. Kids do not.
My sister-in-law’s sister mentioned as I was getting ready to leave the party that there should be a book out there to help kids and parents with ideas to prepare for their friends and family member’s birthdays. This is an EXCELLENT idea.
I think I’ll call it, “Not Your Birthday!”