Will just turned 2 and had a fabulous birthday that started with a road trip to Portland, Oregon to visit the grandparents. Every time we go to visit grandparents Will is on fire! He is so excited and stimulated and happy… and exhausted… because its a lot of work to be all those things all the time for a whole week.
We had a little family party for him at my brother’s new house a few weeks before his actual birthday. The family wanted to celebrate him since they are unable to come to the SF Bay Area to celebrate his birthdays. Everyone was late, dinner took a while to get on the table, and Will was dead tired for most of the festivities. It was sad, but what are you going to do? Got to make the best of it. And we did. All in all, it was a nice little party. Will began perfecting his singing of Happy Birthday To You. So sweet.
We had a little Skype session with the San Diego grandparents and the Portland grandparents on his actual bday: July 14th. We lit a tea light (which he blew out with ease), sang, and had a single slice of cheesecake which we did not finish between the 3 of us. Will was tired again, though it was much earlier in the evening.
The following Saturday was his big event birthday party. His San Diego grandparents flew up for the weekend and Will was ecstatic! He had near nonexistence of naps and lot and lots of excited play time. He went to bed too late, as usual, and woke at the same time: EARLY! We had a great weekend though. The party at Crab Cove in Alameda. It was a nice setting and the company was wonderful. Will had talked daily about how our dear friend Tillie was going to make his birthday cake and how he had a candle for her to put on top: Tillie’s going to make my birthday cake… I have a candle for Tillie”. This cake was truly special. She picked black berries to put in the cake the day of the party! And, get this, she iced it in the car on the way to the party! It was beautiful and delicious! We had a little taqueria make taco fixings and chip and dips for us.
Will and the other children were too engrossed in their play to open presents so we took them home and opened them over the next 4 days to spread them out. I still can’t decide if that was a good idea. Later in the day, after the last one was opened, he said he was going to open his present. I reminded him that he had already opened his last one. He was fine with it. If I had to do it over again, I think would have him open them at the party in front of everyone earlier on in the party, right after cake. On second thought, that could be stimulation overload for a 2 year old. Hm… Maybe at 3 he could handle that. What do other people do that works well?
Some people say that at 1 and 2 years old they are too little to have a birthday party. But I believe it is an important ritual or right of passage that goes beyond the birthday person. In the first few year of life I see birthdays of more of a bonding experience for everyone who attends. Then as children get older and be begin to understand what it means to celebrate a birthday it can become a time of reflection as well as a time to celebrate that we are alive and the people in our lives. I like to think of it like that… otherwise it just becomes an empty or meaningless explosion of energy, effort and resources. Or, something we just do or are expected to do. That’s not only dumb, but a waste.
I didn’t have a birthday celebration this year and I felt loss because of it. I realize that I need to take charge of my birthday ritual and not expect anyone else to make it happen like I usually do. Even if its as simple as going to the beach, sitting on the sand, looking at the water and reflecting on what the past year held for me and what my goals are for the upcoming year.
Also, I like to celebrate my family and friends on birthdays. They are the people who help shape my life.
It takes a lot of energy to throw a party where a lot of people are in attendance but I think it is worth it for certain markers in life. But, after reflecting on Will’s party, and the nonexistence of a party for me, I am really aware of the fact that I would rather have lots of little gatherings to spend time with people who I love.