By John Jericiau
Our middle son Dylan turned 5 years old this week. That means for the next four months we have two 5-year-olds running around (and around) the house. Plus a newborn, who doesn’t do much running but still gets around. We’re still shaking our heads as we come out of the fog of these first few months of newborn life. Every single day is a juggle, a balancing act, and a magic show. How do we get each boy where he needs to go, feed each boy what he needs to stay nourished, and oh yeah make sure everyone’s fingernails are clipped? Those darn nails always creep up on me for some reason. Before I know it I’m looking down at fingernails filled with dirt and colors, with the sharpness of scalpels. I’ve even left home with nail clippers in my pocket, hoping that there might be a free moment during the day where I could possibly do some chopping. But inevitably I’m ending another exhausting day by emptying my pockets on the dresser, and pulling out the long-forgotten clippers that never got used.
In the craziness, life must go on and that does mean birthday celebrations on a yearly basis. I do not recall having a birthday party growing up, but it seems to be the rage these days.
So the last few years we have celebrated Dylan’s birthday by renting a hotel room in Carlsbad, California, right across from Legoland. He has thoroughly enjoyed this, and so has his older brother Devin, and even Daddy and Papa. His birthday weekend always coincided with the Carlsbad Half Marathon, a 13.1-mile running race that I personally enjoy, so the weekend ends up being a two-fer. Plus we like to get down to the San Diego area whenever we can, just to get out of LA.
But this year we decided that Dylan should have a regular run-of-the-mill birthday party in the park. Even though it was the middle of January and most of the country was suffering through -85 degree wind chill (I’m not kidding), Santa Monica was enjoying balmy 70-degree weather. We decided to take advantage of this and simply invite his preschool mates (and their parents) over to the park across the street from our house for pizza and cake. Keep it simple, I begged my husband, because I’m living a thin line between consciousness and exhaustion right now. He bought a few outdoor games like ring toss and bubbles, but our neighborhood playground in the park is really quite nice and we banked on that to keep everyone occupied between the pizza and the cake.
I placed a written invitation in each kid’s cubby (no Evites! Keep it simple!) five days before the party and only half paid attention to the RSVPs. Whoever comes, comes. Parents can have pizza too. Kids can have fruit and veggies when they get home after the party. Pizza, cake, and drinks. That’s it!
As luck would have it, a low-pressure system would thwart my “simple” party. In front of my eyes my iPhone weather app switched from partly cloudy to cloudy to rain to heavy downpour right up to the party, and my iPhone is never wrong. A birthday party in the park was not going to happen. The Carlsbad Half Marathon weekend had passed. Indoor venues could not be found with the party 24 hours away. Dylan was so excited about his party that he didn’t even notice the flooded park. He didn’t even hear the thunder. We just couldn’t let him down.
We decided to move the party to our small beach house just across the street from the park. Living room furniture, toys, and baby supplies were moved to make way for 15 pairs of kiddie feet and their parents. Our biweekly housekeeper recently cleaned the house; however, we still had to straighten up and put away as needed.
The ring toss and the bubbles were put in storage, and we brainstormed about the entertainment. Since Dylan is infatuated with princesses, we decided to rent out royalty. As luck would have it, Princess Buttercup and Prince Aaron were available for a modest charge, and they did a darn good job of keeping all the little ones occupied between the pizza and the cake. We added some sushi and some Diet Coke to the menu, plus some cookies and carrots just to be nice. We had really enjoyable conversations with all the parents as we got to know them a little better and they us. The kids seemed so happy as they filed out the front door after two hours of fun, with full bellies and an awesome goody bag to boot.
I found this birthday party particularly rewarding. That night as we were heading to bed for the night (well, for me the next three hours or whenever little Dustin cries for milk, whichever comes first), my husband praised me for reaching deep to give everything I had to make this party special for our son, and I really appreciated his praise. It was true; it turned into more work than I thought, with more time invested and more trips to the store and Costco than I had hoped for, but we worked as a team and got it done. He even asked me how I felt about the fact that he and I were the only adult males in the entire party, and we laughed as I told him “By golly, I hadn’t even noticed that!” Guess I’ve gotten used to spending time with groups of women.
As I tucked Dylan into bed that night, I looked at a boy who has grown up so quickly right in front of me, a boy I love with all my heart. The efforts of the party and the extra fatigue I was feeling was all worth it as he said to me without any prompting “Daddy, thank you for making my party so great!” as he kissed me good night.
Time to plan for next year! You ain’t seen nothing yet!