My beautiful little baby morphed overnight into a two year old. Don’t ask me how it happened; I don’t even know. Apparently I live in a Kafka novel because that is how absurd it feels to me.
Yet the celebration of this surreal event brought with it life lessons that taught me a bit about living. I’ll share them here…
1. Mo’ money, mo’ problems.
Well, not money exactly, but junk. Specifically junk in the form of toys and sweets and all of life’s other tempting treats. We don’t give Nina a lot of sweets, and we certainly don’t give her mountains of toys, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the junk hangover she woke up and wrestled with all day the next day. My sweet little girl had somehow been snatched up by a frenzied wild beast who razed our house to the ground. After sleeping it off that night and waking up normal again, our decision to refrain from too much junk and stuff and crap felt validated. Bottom line: The more junk you have, the crazier you act.
2. We all need a retreat.
At one point during the party, after Nina had been passed around from guest to guest for a while, I looked around and said, “Where’s my child?” Only to discover that she was sitting outside on the screened in porch by herself. I went out there and found her sitting in the swivel chair peacefully snacking on her ham sandwich. Apparently even at your own party, sometimes you just gotta get away from it all.
3. When you know what you want, just roll with it.
Before any birthday party, the traditional phone chain begins, guided by one main question: What should I get the birthday girl? Our response was hands-down, “baby dolls.” But we didn’t really pay attention to how many people to whom we gave this answer. A few gifts in, we realized the trend and I got a little nervous. Nina seemed unfazed and pretty happy about it. But what really jerked her jolly was the opening of a coveted baby stroller. It seemed for a brief second that the party was over as she jumped up from the pile and rolled it to her bedroom, seemingly to never return, until she victoriously marched back out with her favorite baby doll strapped in safely, proud as a peacock. Everyone clapped and cheered. After come coercing, we were able to talk Nina into opening the rest of the presents, but she never took her eye off her stroller sitting to the side. As soon as all the presents were opened, the other kids pounced and made their claims, while Nina happily strolled off with her baby. In hindsight, I should have just let her go to town with that stroller. It might have been rude to the guests, but hey, it’s her party and she’ll stroll if she wants to.
4. Sometimes it’s really not about you.
An hour or so before the party began, one of my best friends, a disgruntled mother of three, called and timidly told me that she and her husband had miraculously scored football tickets and an affordable babysitter all in one day, so they would not be coming to the party. She was really concerned that I’d be mad, and (surprisingly) I really wasn’t. I knew how badly she needed a day out, and I genuinely wanted her to have it. Over the past few years, I have been known to get frustrated when people don’t show up or when (gasp!) people fail to recognize how much it really is about me. But something about seeing your baby sprout like a weed overnight puts it all in perspective: When you love someone, you just want to watch them grow. And it’s really not about you when you’re thinking about the growth and happiness of others.
5. What you think you want is often the last thing you want.
For the past two weeks, Nina has been obsessed with the birthday song. She wants me to sing it several times before bed, when she wakes up, and on the way to and from school. I explained to her in detail what would happen at her party and how everyone would sing before she blew out her candles and ate cake. Although she’s a two year old, she seemed to get it. But the moment arrived and Nina shut down. All of those eyes staring at her, people hovering around her and clamoring for her to “blow out your candles, Nina!” was all too much. She clung to me, gripping my skin, muttering “no, no, no.” I blew out her candles for her and she eventually made peace with the ordeal once she got her hands on the cake, but she seemed truly disturbed for a minute. As much as she thought she wanted the birthday song, when the time came, it was too much–just like that craving for Cheetos I get at 4pm on a Monday.
6. When it’s all over, there’s always something positive to remember.
Throughout the day, Nina had her ups and downs. It even took her a while to figure out whether or not she liked the cake and ice cream (crazy girl). But the next morning, between meltdowns over the baby doll’s clothes, which book to read, and how to put the new puzzles together, Nina cuddled on the couch with her daddy, looked up at him, and out of the blue said, “Cake is good. I like cake.”
Now there’s a girl who gets it.