Sunday, May 11, 2008

Four Birthday Wishes

In about a week, the Rooster turns four years old.

Each birthday for my kids, I find myself feeling like it's my special day, too. After all, their birthdays also mark the anniversaries of my two biggest accomplishments ever.

When the Rooster turned one, I organized a giant party at the park across the street from our first home. Our first home, which we bought on a tight budget, took forever for most of our friends to get to, but that didn't keep them away, nor did the inferno of global warming that seemed to descend upon us that hot May day in the park. Fortunately I had rented a tent, and everyone endured and even seemed to have fun -- except, notably, the birthday boy. He seemed overstimulated and a little on the miserable side. The photos of him that day might as well have come from one of the detainee prison camps.

By the time the rooster turned two, we had moved closer to civilization, and we'd also given him a sister as an early birthday present in March. We decided to splurge on his party since his sister had been stealing most of the spotlight, and we had a Gymboree party. About 20 kids loved the games, songs, and activities, but once the Rooster discovered the bowl of strawberries on the food table, any mild interest he'd shown in socializing vanished. He spent almost the whole party shoving red heart-shaped treats into his mouth, and crying when they ran out. No matter, Peaches entertained the guests. A majority of the photos we printed from that party are of her; we got a couple cute ones of him, in his shirt stained with juice.

By the time Rooster turned three, we'd attended enough other kids' parties that we had really started to recognize how he stood out from kids very close in age. Honestly, I think birthday parties gave us our first meaningful insight into his developmental issues. I remember at one party, he spent the entire time running in huge circles around the opposite side of the park from where the other kids sat happily rolling balls around and eating on picnic blankets. He had no interest in engaging with them, beyond asking for cake and trying to grab another kid's cool toy. He just wanted to run, to shriek, to chase birds. We decided to opt out of throwing the Rooster a party when he turned three, and invited family only to join us for a trip to a train park, where you can climb on old trains and go to a train museum. The Rooster loved the trains! He enjoyed the day, but had no nap, and seemed tired and wired, and by the time we went out for a family dinner, he behaved so badly he had to leave the pizza restaurant before food came, and I spent the dinner hour driving him around and getting him to sleep off his tantrum.

This will be the Rooster's first birthday post diagnosis. I struggled with the right way to celebrate. Should I have a party, because he had such a good time in the bouncer we got when his sister recently turned two? Or should we just rent the bouncer and not bother to invite anyone?! He likes kids more than he used to, and he's showing that he's learning to play with children his own age, but the kids in his class don't exactly flock to him, and conflict would surely ensue.

If I threw a party, would I really be throwing it for myself, or for him? Likewise, if I decided to skip the party, whose best interest would I be serving?

I don't know if I made the right choice or not, but doesn't that go without saying every day of parenting, multiple times a day?

I opted out of the party; we are taking the Rooster, Peaches, Grammy and Grampy to an exciting museum exhibit, then pigging out on the most expensive (gfcf) cupcakes you ever saw. We will have balloons, candles, singing, presents, hugs and kisses, but no noisy crowds, no onlookers. No friends.

I know it's his birthday, not mine. But when I light the candle on that six dollar cupcake, I will be making some wishes nonetheless.


PBear said...

FWIW, I think you made the right choice. You will ALL enjoy the day you have arranged a good deal more than a party with a bunch of 4 year olds - let's face it, even NT 4 year olds are not exactly the most gracious hosts and party-goers anyway... :-)

ps - how is Peaches' hand???

Anonymous said...

Yes, you made the right decision. My son will turn seven this year and it is the first time we are even entertaining the idea of an actual party at a place with many friends.

We've always kept things very lowkey. Family, a small handful of very close friends. I've never once been sorry.

Anonymous said...

You are in good company opting out of the party.

Chee's first birthday was just family, but a LOT of extended family came. Birthdays two and three were just us and the grandparents. Birthdays are especially tough for her as the singing of Happy Birthday tends to cause a meltdown. NOt sure what it is, but she does not like to be sung to, or to hear anyone else sing that particular song.

She has come along way since starting preschool and she actually likes birthday parties now and she eagerly anticipates the parties she's invited to. We're considering an actual party this year for her upcoming birthday.

I think I'll stick to a rule of thumb I once heard - invite the same number of kids as the age of your child. She'll be 4, so we'll invite 4 kids.

Enjoy your train exhibit. It sounds fabulous. Happy Early Birthday to the Rooster.

redheadmomma said...

Sounds like the perfect birthday, sweetie. Not too much stress and all the good stuff.

Have not had the chance to comment on your other posts but I will....