Five little girls grip the side of the crib with fierce glee. Their faces shine with naughty delight. This really is five little monkeys jumping on the bed. I grab the camera and get a few blurred shots. I'm trying to capture something, maybe proof that we are having a good time. There's no doubt about it. I'm the last to be convinced. I have been worried about this birthday party for weeks. Who should we invite? How many? Too many will overwhelm her and too few is too vulnerable to no-shows. I don't like relying on plan A. I need B, C and sometimes D. What will we do? Free for all or structured entertainment? Will anyone come? Does she have any friends? Will she have a good time? Will I? Who is this about?
This is the first birthday party for her that is somewhat directed by what she wants. Her younger birthdays were essentially celebrations with our adult friends and their kids; sharing milestones and toasting the survival of each early year. This year is different. Thankfully we are beyond survival. Now, these are her choices, her playmates from pre-school, daycare and the playground. I will barely know the parents and they won't know each other at all. They will see the best version of our mess. They will know we are sort of weirdos too with art and odd furniture and music and… why do I want to be so normal now when I have never cared before? Who is this about?
I sit in cake-making exhaustion the morning of the party, trying to hear God. Sometimes I can. I tried to quiet my mind and to escape the drift that creeps into the main stage so quickly. As my worries parade on through, I slowly notice an image of Lego treasure. I see gold plastic treasure chests and coins superimposed on the other thoughts. What the….? There is a moment of confusion and then I recognize the gentle teasing humour of a message from God. I'm chasing the wrong gold, fools gold, toy gold, fun, even useful, but ultimately the wrong focus. I suddenly know, deeply know, that only a few things matter right now and my current worries about the state of the house and trying to pass for normal, whatever that means, don't rank at all.
Now I stand watching my dear girl with her pals, having the best time. I see that she is not like them but she is also not that different. They all play together and all a little apart from each other. They wander around and find things they are interested in. My planned craft activity captures some interest for a time and then they drift off distracted by the pink doll palace that has shown up for birthday week. The kids crowd around the cupcake mountain when the time comes and my girl 'A' is front and centre. She knows this is her moment. She can't muster up enough wind to blow out the candles but she gets help from her brother and her friends. Yes, friends. The ensuing cake frenzy is as varied as the little party people. One licks off all the pink icing and leaves the cake before asking for more. Another eats around and around until reaching one last bite. My 'A' face plants right into the cake and comes up for air momentarily before diving again. I talk to parents and I like them all. The tenure track professor likes the tunes we are playing in the background. Parents tell us tales of their kids' accounts of 'A'. Tales of 'A' rescuing one from a fall. Tales of 'A' bossing another one around. She is a force to be reckoned with and she's making her way somehow.
I find that all that I fear, besides not having loads of food, is what everyone fears. Isolation. I am beating it back for my daughter and for myself. As it turns out, she is the least likely person to need help with that. Really, I should just get out of her way.
And so we celebrate and I do my best to let the worry rest. There will be more parties and kindergarten is looming but right now we celebrate 5 years of the life altering presence of Miss A.
This post is reprinted by permission from Sally's blog, Wide Awake Planet.