31 August 2010

Birthday Boy

Another day, another major milestone. Our son turned two. Born in early August as he was, we are now doomed to at least a decade or more of horrific, hellfire-ish weather on the day of his inevitable party, regardless of the day we choose. First birthday = melting faces, check. Second birthday = more melting faces. Check.

But of course, the Doozer didn't seem to mind. He ran around like a little maniac, sweating like Richard Simmons, while the adults fanned themselves, Southern belle-style, and fainted.

So, if they weren't already, when you have a small child, Target and Michael's become your go-to spots for pretty much everything you need in your life, but birthday party supplies in particular. And especially if you are married to someone enterprisingly crafty, a truly creative spirit, he or she will need these resources to properly execute their vision.

For weeks beforehand, we gathered our materials and began assembling decorations. The piece de resistance, though, was the batch of homemade cupcakes. On several occasions leading up to the party, we asked the Doozer what flavor cupcake he'd like. When we offered vanilla, he'd say, "Yes!" When we suggested chocolate, he'd say, "Yes!" We politely sidestepped his suggestion of green bean-flavored cupcakes. After a while, we started getting a "Yes!" more frequently and enthusiastically to chocolate. We had our flavor. We already had the design in mind.

(Yes, these are homemade. Nice work, Wifey.)

Which brings us to the other invaluable resource: the Internets. It provides untold inspiration, as well as points of reference. The breadth and variety of images available when you type "Sesame Street cupcake" into Google is astounding. And it can go one of two ways: either what you see stimulates your creative juices or results in frustration, overload brought on by the barrage of imagery.

And the end result is worth it, just to hear the Doozer exclaim the names of his favorite Sesame Street characters when he sees them rendered in delicious, edible cake form.

Will he recognize them? we fretted. Will he know what they're meant to be? If he doesn't, it's kind of all for naught, right? If the man of the hour is not sufficiently impressed, then what was the point of all that effort? Luckily for us, he recognized them right away as his old pals.

It was only when the singing began, that things took a turn for the worse. The Doozer is not keen on being the center of attention. What are you people doing to me? Look, kid, it's your birthday and we're gonna sing, dammit! And you're gonna sit there and like it!

Maybe it wasn't the singing so much, as just the general overload of revelry. Party favors and hats and temporary tattoos, oh my! And that's before we even get to the presents.

A pint-sized lawn mower, a set of foam golf clubs, a cherry-red wagon, a set of new drums. A big, yellow "shool" bus. My wife and I were most excited about the gift we'd selected for him, which we'd researched thoroughly online and in stores, before settling on the perfect one.

Big fan of food and eating and pretty much everything that goes on in the kitchen that he is, we figured the Doozer might enjoy his very own kitchen. Of course, we discovered that a lot of them are pretty girly. Which makes sense on one level, but on another, how many life-sized kitchens do you see that are totally pink? Kind of an outmoded gender bias, don't you think? Why doesn't Guy Fieri have a play kitchen for sale? One for little dudes, with flames and whatnot on the side. I mean, the man's got his name on everything else.

Really, our son (or yours) could be the next Jamie Oliver. Why aren't there more options for embracing that? I'd like to think if Jamie himself endorsed such a product, it would be the one we chose: Educo's My French Kitchen. Our country seems very down on the French, but in many ways, culturally, they seem light years ahead of us.

Maybe it's just me.

Anyway, that kid who hid his face in his hands when we all sang to him, for some reason, weeks later, can't stop singing "Happy Birthday." To himself. After two parties, countless presents, Muppet-shaped baked goods—he still can't let go. His little cousin had her first birthday a few weeks later and the effort to get him to swap out his own name in that song for hers was staggering. In the end, he acquiesced, but remained suspicious of the notion that someone else could also have a birthday. And unwilling to accept that his own was over.

Got to wait until next year, pal.

In the meantime, I'll think of the Doozer in 90-plus degree weather, banging on a brand-new set of drums, sweat dripping from his brow like Rainn Wilson in The Rocker, smiling, laughing, in his element, living it up as the little man of the hour: the birthday boy.

And I, for one, am really looking forward to next year.

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