I find my son’s birthday to be a number of things: sad, anxiety provoking, challenging, tiring, and at some point, hopefully just a little happy. This year we did a home party again. Mom-ita took care of all the arrangements like, food, who was coming, invitations, speaking to M-ito about everything, and helping him to make his birthday list. At 8, my son is still very much into birthdays. I hope he stays that way for a while.
My job as the Dad-dito was, as it has been in the past, to take care of the entertainment (I have been the entertainment the last three years as the yoga teacher for a personalized class two years in a row, and this year as the designer of the save-the-world from Ratzo treasure hunt), pick up the food the morning of the party, order the cake from Cupcake bakery, then pick it up, call my family and make sure they know the date and can come, buy the gifts on M-ito’s list, and help out the day of the party as opposed to getting in the way.
This year my father came with Jocelita, Max’s grandmother (my father’s girlfriend who has taken on the role of a grandmother – it’s a long story but that’s how it works some days) and they arrived with her in tears and him in a grouchy, angry mood. They were the first to arrive. Mom-ita was stressed. I was stressed. Four out of five people in the apartment were stressed. Oh joy. People were coming over, and M-ito was hanging out waiting, playing and already enjoying being the birthday boy even with this madness in the background. I think he didn’t notice what was going on and as his friends arrived (six in all – a small group this year and that was a blessing) he got wrapped up in them. I got wrapped up in occupying my father and listening to Jocelyn and cutting up the fruit salad and regular salad. I put my father to work on drawing characters for the save-the-world game and hoped, hoped, hoped, he would be nice to Max, whom I also asked to draw some characters for the game. My father tends to critique rather than help when it comes to drawing and M-ito is a good artist in his own right but needs to be encouraged not critiqued.
The save-the-world treasure hunt had the evil Ratzo trying to rule the world through the kid’s parents with hand sanitizer – vaporizing spray. I’d hidden clues around the apartment and throughout the building (laundry, garden, mailbox bulletin board) all written in code with tricks and traps everywhere (every other step of the stairs to the garden was poison to the touch, green paper was poison and some clues were written on green paper, a puzzle of paper pieces was inside a green paper folder). I gave them antidote cards for when they were poisoned so they could keep playing the game, broke then into two teams, girls and boys, code books to be able to crack my code, a storyline to work from and 30 minutes to find Ratzo’s switch that would turn all parents armed with hand sanitizer into child vaporizing machines. I was up until 1:30am the night before setting it all up.
It’s easy to understand the feelings of anxiety, challenge, exhaustion and a little happiness. But why would I be sad? Well, my son is getting older and so am I. It is both wonderful and sad at the same time. I want him to grow up and be a man but I also want him to stay my little boy. Such a simple statement and filled with, for me so much emotion. But that is the nature of birthdays. They make me review life, both my son’s and my own and many times that is painful. So, given that, I try to find some happiness in the story of my son’s birthday, day. The smile on his face as his friends race across the apartment building trying to outrun the clock to find Ratzo’s switch that’s in the refrigerator, of course, dodging parents trying to sanitize their hands (I gave everybody hand sanitizer and they kept asking the kids if they wanted to clean their hands – the kids all ran away screaming NOONONONONONONO!). And watching him open his gifts, blow out the candles on his cake. All the things that make up a birthday celebration of turning a year older and a year wiser. And my son is both. Birthdays need to be celebrated as small rites of passage along the way of life. I need to remember how wonderful it is that he is growing up and learning about this wonderful and challenging world that we live in as human beings.
And also remember, that I now have a full year to go before I have to do it all again. Whew.