The First Birthday Party We Ever Threw

I asked C who he wanted to invite to his birthday party, and I stuck to the list of people he gave me. There were other mamas & their kids I wanted to invite, but with C's list alone, we had over 50 people there! We really need to throw a Just Because party sometime over the summer. Maybe a Luau. Maybe a Teddy Bear's Picnic. Maybe a Come-Get-Sauced-While-Your-Kids-Run-Around-Our-Yard party. But then again, it seems like half the women I know are pregnant. Maybe a potluck. Or a group baby shower... We hosted the party 2 weekends after his actual birthday. We were blessed with many wonderful friends and family who attended. When we moved here 7 months ago, I never would have imagined how many wonderful people would have become our friends. C is a lucky, loved little boy.

The theme was tractor party. Why tractors? C likes tractors, though he's not obsessed with them or anything. Last November, Geoff and I got a little carried away during the Kennebec Montessori School fundraiser auction and purchased the privilege of hosting a birthday party at Hammond Tractor in Fairfield, which is, I've been told, the largest tractor store in Maine. It sits atop a hill among acres of grassy land, with a large scenic pond in front.

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We had a blast! Most of these photo credits go to my friend, Holly Hubbard! Thank you for taking pictures for me so I could enjoy being with my son on his fourth birthday party.

The spread - Subway catering, lemonade, fruit/cheese/chocolate platter, "tractor tire" donuts, veggie tray & dip I cut up myself because the grocery store wanted $44 for one veggie tray, with adult-sized bites (seriously?!) So I chopped the veggies into toddler-size pieces myself.
The spread - Subway catering, lemonade, fruit/cheese/chocolate platter, "tractor tire" donuts, veggie tray & dip I cut up myself because the grocery store wanted $44 for one veggie tray, with adult-sized bites (seriously?!) So I chopped the veggies into toddler-size pieces myself.
The favors - I couldn't cope with having to stuff goody bags, I wanted to avoid sending kids home with candy or plastic toys, and since parents and siblings were invited, we thought giving out favors first would make fun photo opps with all the tractors.
The favors - I couldn't cope with having to stuff goody bags, I wanted to avoid sending kids home with candy or plastic toys, and since parents and siblings were invited, we thought giving out favors first would make fun photo opps with all the tractors.
The "cake!" This is Geoff's old tractor. In the trailer is a big brownie topped with Oreo crumbs and worms. The guests had Oreo pudding cups I made and topped with Oreo crumbs and gummy worms.
The "cake!" This is Geoff's old tractor. In the trailer is a big brownie topped with Oreo crumbs and worms. The guests had Oreo pudding cups I made and topped with Oreo crumbs and gummy worms.
At C's insistence...tractor tires.
At C's insistence...tractor tires.
At first he had a hard time choosing
At first he had a hard time choosing
"Ba-nay-nay's!" (One of those words he knows how to say right but likes to be silly and talk like G)
"Ba-nay-nay's!" (One of those words he knows how to say right but likes to be silly and talk like G)
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Friends
Friends
After lunch, every child went on a tractor ride!
After lunch, every child went on a tractor ride!
Though very windy, it was warm enough to play outside while we waited!
Though very windy, it was warm enough to play outside while we waited!
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That's us! Just goofing around...
That's us! Just goofing around...
With Aunt Stacy! She and Jake came up from Portland just for the party.
With Aunt Stacy! She and Jake came up from Portland just for the party.
With that many people, there was a lot of action. I snapped this image when he retreated for a few quiet moments at the edge of the frozen pond.
With that many people, there was a lot of action. I snapped this image when he retreated for a few quiet moments at the edge of the frozen pond.
Then it was back to the action.
Then it was back to the action.
Oh, excuse me, do I know you?
Oh, excuse me, do I know you?
Then it was time to come inside for cake...
Then it was time to come inside for cake...

And that's when it hit the fan. I rounded people up to sing Happy Birthday to C, but he went and hid under the table. Just as everyone was milling around and making their way toward the cake, I slipped under the tablecloth with him.

"What's the matter?" "It's just that I don't want to blow out 4 candles." "Do you just want to be 3 again? I can take off a candle..." "Why don't you want people to sing to you, honey?" "Because I don't want to blow out the candles!" "Well, at birthday parties, we sign Happy Birthday and the birthday boy blows out the candles, just like in Raggedy Ann and Five Birthday Parties in a Row." .... "That's what we're going to do now, OK?" "No." "Well, we're going to sing and you can come up here if you want and I'll hold you or you can sit in the big chair." "NO!" "OK, suit yourself." I get out from under the table and head toward the tractor cake. C jumps out from under the table and into Geoff's arms. During the sound of singing, C whispers to Geoff, "If you give me a sugar doughnut, I'll be good!" Meanwhile, the song was still going on. C jumps down from Geoff, screams and runs over to his chair, yelling, "NO! NO! NO! NO! I wanna blow out my birthday candles!" The song ends. "Go ahead, buddy. Make a wish!" "NO!" (I'm thinking, really? OK...) "Maybe all his friends can help us blow them out!" I had no trouble recruiting about 17 preschoolers to all aim at the candles and blow hard (though I had to blow to get them to go out). Wait, I blew out his wish candles...does that mean I got the wish? And as soon as the fire went out, he bawled himself into a puddle on the floor. I had lots of parent friends to help pass out the "dirt cups," though. C was burned out.

the third match.
the third match.

Like the match I tried and tried, and finally got it on the third match, I'm reminded - our children don't need me to throw a fancy party or finish a craft project for them, or a toy for them. They just need me to be patient with them. I was taken back to a scene last December when G had woken up early from a nap, so she was cranky, plus she needed a massive diaper change. I felt annoyed because I wanted more time to work on her doll. She screamed and flipped and flailed while I was trying to diaper her. Diapering a one-year-old is like trying to gift wrap a live trout. She hit. She bit! She hollered so loud she woke up her brother. I really just wanted to craft in peace.

But the craft was for her...right? Or was it for me, really - something to do, something to make, something to...show off? Oh dear. My children don't need more toys. They don't need me to be prideful. They don't need me to make them anything more elaborate than meals and snacks, really, and simple fun. But most of all, more than any of these things, they need my loving patience. She needed me not to sew anything, but to just be present with her, be gentle with her, and get her into a diaper. And here in this moment, C needed me to give him a pass, to consider that maybe that many people looking at him makes him anxious. But seriously, I was not going to bribe him with a donut just to blow out his birthday candles so he could eat cake! Right? Wow.

So I was patient and calm and firm and continued on with what I told him we'd do. Sing anyway, and eat cake anyway, and celebrate anyway.

And after everyone calmed down, I realized - I'd have done the same exact thing whether there were 50 people watching or none. I've finally, really come into my own in my choices of how to deal with common behaviors. This birthday represents four years of being a mommy. I remember how insecure I felt at first, every interaction tempered with self-judgment -- should I do it this way? Am I enough that?

Then there was the identity phase - I'm this. I'm that. We're this. We're that.

Then finally, now, is the what-it-is phase. I'm no longer defined by this or that as a parent. I realize we all have to take it as it comes and make it up as we go along. The children are making it up as they go along, and so do we make ourselves. We act and react in a sort of emotional seismic foxtrot, as imperceptibly large plates of experience and identity shift and settle together. The children lead more than they will ever know, with their inspiration and make believe. We make, we make do, and we believe. Over and over.

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He eventually came around. And somehow, he did get that sugar donut. It is his birthday, after all.

Then, there was the after party!

We came home and opened gifts since we didn't have enough time to do that at the party and not be rushed. The kids were all having such a god time climbing all over all the tractors I hated to divert their attention. So we waited until we got home.

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Geoff continued to practice his balloon animals.
Geoff continued to practice his balloon animals.

Then it was naptime. After nap, G woke up first, which meant alone time with the tractor cake...

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Then C woke up and they shared and danced on the table.

Geoff finished a balloon - a giant flower!
Geoff finished a balloon - a giant flower!
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Oh, dear. I'm afraid with all that table dancing, Oreo foot was inevitable.
Oh, dear. I'm afraid with all that table dancing, Oreo foot was inevitable.