Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Big (little) Birthday

Yesterday was our now seven year-old's birthday. He's been looking forward to it for ages. We've been... well, looking toward it for just as long. Birthdays are hard for many of us. I like to hide in bed with a chocolate cake myself. Birthdays are near impossible to survive for some, and our son is one of those small number.

Managing a successful birthday for him has become something of an art form for us. Controlled joy, dampened enthusiasm, dull celebration, lots of oxymorons abound when you combine the desire for celebration with an absolute intolerance for excess noise, the unexpected, and emotions above a whisper.

Even the nuclear family unit singing softly around the kitchen table can be too much.

This year, he wanted his adult (and teenage) friends to play with him. So we provided brownies, coffee, a drop-in time, and activities (puzzles, Lego, drawing supplies) at the dining table so that those adults could drop in for awhile after school, pay some attention, and buzz out again without a lot of brouhaha or ceremony. We never did sing happy birthday.

But our boyo was pretty thrilled with the idea of being 7 this year. And brought to the table some encouraging attitudes: that being seven meant being more able to take on chores and be flexible, that birthdays were about more than presents and that any gift--a card, a visit, anything--was welcome (except apparently the scooter-thing we gave him that scared the wits out of him for half an hour before he thought maybe he'd give it a whirl).

Thank you Jacob for your assembly skills under fire. And to our older son's girlfriend for hanging out and being such a good sport, even after taking a rubber ball in the face.

He went to bed happy, with only one major meltdown, expressing generous thoughts toward others and gratitude for his day. He wanted to be a better person, more polite, friendlier, flexible--awesome thoughts to end a long day with. And then he didn't go to sleep for hours due to the excitement, brownies and foolishly allowed Dr. Pepper.

He was up at 6, ready to rock and roll and play. The rest of us were all a little toasted. Even our high school senior was having a post-sugar-high case of the blues and he's usually hard to contain due to the high level of ideas bouncing around his head at any time. But no, he was exhausted, too.

It takes a lot of energy to prepare the way for carefully managed frivolity, calm play, quiet conviviality and suppression of spontaneous squeals of delight. Parenting can be a strange lot in life. You never know what skills will be required. But it's a good one.

1 comment:

Tari said...

what a beautiful story! it sounds like a birthday as unique as he is, which is something we should each get to have, if you think about it.

seriously - my husband turned 40 last summer and at work it was black balloons, confetti on his office floor, cake in the conference room, the entire department singing: all he wanted was to run to the mens' room and hide. he came home halfway between incandescent anger and tears. he'd hoped for a quiet lunch with the 2 people he works with directly. instead everyone meant well and gave him the celebration they wanted for themselves.

you did the opposite for your son -you gave him the birthday he wanted and needed to have. that counts for more than all the singing, bouncy-houses, and clowns ever will.