Today is my daughter Elby’s fourth birthday. She has been residing outside of my womb on this planet for exactly four years. It’s completely mind blowing to me, but even more so to her. For her first three birthdays, a big fuss was not made. I personally feel it’s a waste of energy to go overboard for the first few years when A) the shorties won’t remember and B) you can always photo shop them into pictures of other less savvy moms’ birthday parties for their one, two and three year olds.
Year one, my husband Jon and I sat on the couch, our previous selves replaced by two hollow sleep deprived husks of human beings and downed a bottle of champagne to celebrate “getting through it with our marriage still somewhat intact.” Year two we got a little crazier and had an adult party where Elby was welcome to eat a cupcake, dance around the living room for a little while, open a random present from adult well wishers and then get a story and hit the sack leaving her parents to celebrate in earnest. Last year was the first year there was an actual list of a few friends her age invited on purpose to celebrate with her. But the party started at the adult and child friendly hour of five p.m. with the childfree adults welcome to stay on and celebrate with us. Elby had a great time because she was under the impression it was all about her – she had no idea that the one “Dora’s Fiesta” sign I’d picked up at the 99 cents store and the Dora cake was as far as I went to make the party about the kids. Okay, I did pick up a few arts and crafty items to keep the kids occupied in our playroom while the adults stuffed themselves with La Salsa and listened to music never heard on a kids’ CD.
This year it’s a whole different story. This year she knows. This year there was a countdown to her birthday. This year there were specific presents requested months before the big day.
“Mama, I really want that 3-D chalk game” E would tell me, referring to a toy she saw on a commercial running during Charlie and Lola.
“Maybe for your birthday” I’d answer noncommittally. It’s not like she was going to remember that stupid thing she saw on a commercial months later right? Wrong. Last week she let me know that she was looking so forward to getting the 3-D chalk game that she would be receiving in a matter of days. Guess who had to order it on Amazon using the one-day shipping reserved for major procrastinators and people with the income of Donald Trump.
This morning she woke up earlier than ever and ran into our room, “I’m four!” she shouted –more excited than I would be if I won a hundred bucks on a scratcher ticket. “I’m four! I’m the same age as Dylan now!” In a month her friend Dylan will be five but you try explaining that to a three…make that four-year-old.
She had a present waiting for her at the foot of her bed like I used to get when I was little. It was a jewelry box with a twirling fairy that plays an unrecognizable song when it’s opened. She left our bedroom and came back with her present that she’d ripped open, beaming like it was her wedding day.
“Thank you Mommy and Daddy! It’s just what I wanted.” This little girl has crawled into my heart and nestled herself in there permanently; more essential to my well being than a pacemaker –which is why, even though I can’t stand them, this Sunday we are having her first real party at a ballet studio replete with a princess Ariel theme, princess invitations, an ice cream cake, balloons, organized dress up and dancing. And all at the ungodly hour of 11 a.m.
Me, I’d rather kick it old school and let a few kids run around in the backyard playing pin the tail on George W. or busting open a piñata but, sadly, we are in serious need of landscaping and the shards of broken glass and pointy twigs are no place for a child let alone children that don’t belong to us so we had to go the offsite route. We’re spending way too much money – the champagne for the Mimosas alone will cost a pretty penny. But when I look at her face on that day, surrounded by her friends and family, I absolutely know that even if she never remembers it, I always will. And that makes it worth it. Plus, anyone whose kid is not getting a party for their fourth can always photo shop them into some pictures of this one.