It’s true, you turned five last week, and so we celebrated.
We attached balloons to our mailbox and filled our deck with neighbours and friends. We sung to you while dad presented you with the tasteless pound cake I paid far too much for a 16 year old to bake at the Superstore- upon your request.
We had people bring cupcakes and popcorn, bacon and fruit kebabs- at your request. And us adults ate the diabetic offerings while the handful of you kids ran and played.
The sun shone on us as we sat on the edge of the wooden deck, eating from collapsing paper plates and drinking apple juice from red plastic cups.
And then two hours later people went home.
There were no planned scavenger hunts, no candy bowls, no property tours, pinatas or glitter. There were no treat bags, no fireworks or themes.
We didn’t get you the real live bunny you so desperately wanted.
This, your fifth birthday, was an event to highlight, but it didn’t feel like the second coming of Christ. Not like some of the other birthday parties you’ve grown accustomed to since starting school last year.
But the thing you’ll come to learn, sooner is better rather than later, is that we’re not like everybody else. I just don’t do that shit- it’s not me.
And as fun as those parties are, with their tablecloths, themed meals and decor, with their confetti and costumed characters and 40 children running on sugar and sass, you know we don’t do that here. I’d go crazy trying to achieve that sort of success- and I’d have resented the very thing we were celebrating- your birth.
Instead, as I sipped my juice from the cup I’d have played beer pong with some ten years ago, I reflected. This, your fifth birthday, was a celebration of my survival of five years of parenthood. That’s why there were more adults than children- because it’s taken those people to get me to where you are today. I’ve needed their help- not the five year olds in your class.
As much as it was your birthday, it was my day too- and I don’t need fancy. What I need is a moment to sit on my ass where children aren’t pulling on my teats or my hair or my patience- where everyone is content.
And I got that last weekend, so as far as I could tell, so it was a success to me.
I know I convinced you to accept that you didn’t really need gifts from friends this year, and so, when they presented you with handmade cards with donations inside for the animal shelter, I think you were a bit bummed for a minute. Maybe you feel like I’m a bummer of a parent to have suggested it.
But given your age and privilege, you get a hell of a lot of other exciting, superfluous shit all year round. On this day, I wanted to focus on surrounding ourselves with what matters.
This year, dad and I got you something you hadn’t asked for- a guitar, and it surprised you. We didn’t get it because I need you to grow up to play in a Symphony or be a writer for Beiber, though those things would be cool if you wanted them for yourself. We got it for you because we’ve noticed the way you sit beside your dad when he plays. We’ve noticed it would be a way to spend some shared time.
Quiet time shared. Together.
And that’s all I ever strive to achieve- a bit of quality time, when we aren’t rushing from one place to the next, or trying to adhere to someone else’s idea of time well spent- so that’s what your birthday was- not much of anything at all.
Me, sipping 99cent juice on a deck while the sun shone down and you fed the cat and warded off the pesky chickens. While you made sandcastles in the sandbox and the babies knocked them down and you played with your cousin blowing balloons, though many popped in your face.
Life can be simple if we let it.
I hope you’ll understand some day why I throw sucky parties.