Monday, July 26, 2010

Blue's Clues, Chuckee Cheese, Sleepovers and the Perfect Jinx

  For 13 years, I've made sure that my son's birthday was celebrated big, spending weeks planning a theme party and fun activities for him and his friends.
Ty Beanie Baby Blues Clues  For his first birthday, we had the Singing Library Lady come to our house, play her guitar and sing "Wheels on the Bus," "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly," and other rollicking favorites. He got a toy chest full of toys. And birthday cake. And each child got a specially selected present as a favor. All this, even though the parenting books discouraged grand celebration and warned that the birthday child might freak out. My boy seemed to thoroughly enjoy it all.  I still remember him holding on to the coffee table, unable to walk but happy to stand, and swaying to the beat of the music.
  At three, he was in love with Blue's Clues. That was the obvious theme. But I couldn't find anyone who had a Blue's costume, so I had to settle for a big, furry Elmo. He greeted my son, who was decked out in his green-striped Steve shirt, and he had the children search for Blue's Clues. I was particularly proud of myself for the party favor that year. I had stayed up to the wee hours making Blue's Clues notebooks out of reporter's pads. On the cover, I pasted green construction paper and drew the Big Red Chair that Steve used to think in and decorated it with red glitter. An oversized crayon was stuck in a red spiral. It looked perfect, if I say so myself.
Adidas WC 2010 Repliqué Soccer Ball, White/Black/Pure Yellow, 5  Other years, we had face painting, Power Rangers,  and Chuckee Cheese, of course. A whole string of years focused on sports -- soccer parties, basketball parties, football parties, you name the ball. One year, we held the festivities in a park. With a summer birthday, outdoors always seemed like a good idea until it got near to the date. Then I would panic over the weather forecast and pray for a clear day. Once it poured an hour before the outdoor party. That time we switched to indoor bowling, scrambling to find an  available alley. This particular year, the weather was fine. I had chosen a beautiful, expansive park not far from the house. Technically, you had to live within a certain distance to book it for gatherings. We were a bit outside, but I figured I could simply show up and stake out a spot. Who would care about 15 little kids playing in a park? That morning, I went over to check out the picnic tables.
  Then I saw a big sign announcing a concert. At the park. That same day. No tables would be available. It was hours until guests would arrive.
Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake 7"
  I frantically started roaming other parks. I tried to book a shelter. Everything was reserved -- since the previous year! Finally, in desperation, I approached one family who had a large shelter at Ridley Creek. They were only using two of the four tables. I appealed to them -- telling them how my plans had gone awry, how my son was turning seven, how he'd be so disappointed, how we wouldn't take up too much space, how we'd pay whatever the fee was. Could they please, please, PLEASE share? They looked at me like I was crazy, but bless them, they agreed. 
  And so it went, through laser tag and sleepovers and go-carts. Until this year.
  Now that he was turning 14, the big birthday bash, even a sleepover, seemed too childish. Instead, we planned to spend the day as a family and meet up with other relatives for a day at the beach, picnic lunch, mini-golf and carnival rides on the boardwalk. Everyone was psyched. The weather was blisteringly hot -- a perfect day to escape to the beach.
  And then the plan began to unravel.
   The birthday present -- an $80 Sneijder jersey -- that I had received a couple of days earlier was too small. I had overlooked the size when ordering, and now it was too late to exchange it. The first phone call of the big day was to say that one of his favorite cousins was sick with a temperature of 101 degrees F. The family had to cancel. That left us heading to the beach with the grandparents. We loaded up the car and headed out. Within half an hour, we hit traffic. A 90-minute ride to the beach became a four hour, exhausting odyssey. Everyone was starving. We had our picnic on the side of the road. The view was a forest dotted with trash. Biting flies kept us hopping as we downed deviled eggs.
8 Foot Heavy Duty Beach Umbrellas UPF100+ with Tilt - Fiberglass Ribs  Finally, we reached Avalon and set out our blanket. As we put up the two umbrellas, a gust of wind caught one of them and flung it onto nearby beach goers.  It ripped and my efforts to resurrect it failed. That left one umbrella for the five of us. The wind, though, was unrelenting, and I'm convinced, attacked our umbrella more than anyone else's.
  Let's just get in the water, I thought. We set off for the ocean as the grandparents clung to the umbrella stand and squeezed into the speck of shade. Seconds into the water, our feet became numb. The water, on this record-hot day, was Arctic cold.
  We stayed another half hour or so and decided to pack up and go home. I was sullen. This was not the birthday celebration I had intended. I started to apologize to my son. I felt so bad about it all. But somehow he knew how much it meant to me for his day to be perfect. Even though he had to be just as disappointed, he never showed it. Instead, he said, "It's OK, Mom." And then added, with a sweet smile, "You're the best mother ever."
  I was stunned and touched -- and proud -- at this show of maturity. My little boy wasn't a kid anymore. And those unsolicited words of comfort provided a perfect end to a jinxed day.


Richard said...

Lini, very nice piece. Being a concerned parent lasts at least 39 years, based on personal experience. Dick

Lady of Leisure said...

Thanks, DIck! That's all, huh?

Ellen Jurado said...

LOL We did a Blue's Clues party for one of my big kids. I painted faces on red sand pails to make Shovel & Pail (we still have a couple that make it to the beach)& made Handy Dandy Notebooks (using Rob's computer skills to make the covers). And I cut out tiny foam pieces for the kids to glue together to make a Blue magnet. Birthday child wore a Blue's Clues costume (recently resold at a consignment sale) & we had the Thinking Chair pinata from Birthday Express. I got even crazier for the girly parties. Sadly, child #3 hasn't had a party since she was 4. I guess I ran out of gas, & her mid-September birthday doesn't help. I am DETERMINED that she will have one this year, when she turns 7!

Lady of Leisure said...

You are truly amazing! Lucky kids! You'll get over third-child syndrome, I'm sure.

Lady of Leisure said...

This post was picked up today by Check it out!