Tomorrow is Elizabeth’s 9th birthday (which, oddly enough is Diary of a Mom’s “Katie’s” birthday as well- Elizabeth was born at 5:25pm, in sight of Captiva Island where they just visited. I just love strange coincidences… ).
Every year, we tease the children that I am just not going to allow them to get a year older. They could have the party, because after all, life should be celebrated, but that I was enjoying them so much at that age, that I wasn’t going to allow them to add one more number to their age. For several years when they were younger, they almost believed me, and we would “bargain” about it… “Well, I’ll think about it if you give me 15 kisses… I don’t know, you’re pretty wonderful, will you still kiss me when you’re 5/6/7?… You don’t really WANT to get another year older, do you? You’re doing such a good job of being 4/5/6!” It’s an ongoing game that we all get, and it always ends with “Well, no matter what age you are, you are always my baby.”
My husband often gets ME flowers on the children’s birthdays. He was so awed at their births and so impressed at the work it took, the physical connection I had to the babies and the fine line between birth and death that is grazed in moments like that, that he remembers me as well, which makes me love him and our family even more. Our doula, Michelle, noted how on March 6th, with the birth of our first-born, there were two things born that day- our daughter and us as parents. It was a transformative moment- for all of us.
And so Elizabeth is having a sleepover of 8 little girls. It will be chaos, messy and noisy and no one will get much sleep. She’s inviting a few good friends and some other girls she calls “friends”, whom I’ve never met, but are first-degree friends of friends. People have asked me if I’m nuts, but a) there is not a lot of difference between 4 and 8 children in terms of activity and b) she can drift in a crowd. She will probably shut down at some point during the party. I’ve planned for some down times with two movies, lots of popcorn and with the crowd, she may be able to slip away for a few minutes and collect herself. There is safety in numbers.
We will be watching “Matilda” and “The Wizard of Oz”- both of them favorites of hers and relatively age-appropriate. We will be painting fabric paint on t-shirts as party favors. We will have pepperoni pizza and popcorn for snacks. We will be painting fingernails. She has planned every minute of it in loving, obsessive detail.
My husband gets “Boy-Bonding” time with Ray, where they will watch Tom and Jerry cartoons until late, play computer games and have their own “sleepover” in our room. I almost expect belching contests.
And I will watch and supervise and clean up after the girls and control the ebb and flow of hysteria in the living room. And I will watch her be Queen for a Night- the focus of attention simply by hosting a fun birthday party, and doing “cool” things. Children’s attention is easily purchased. I know that the transactions of third-grade friendships depend upon forgiving small oddities in exchange for good times. Not stupendously active times where the activity trumps the personal connections, like Chuck E. Cheese, but times where children can talk and share and create together. These are the activities that allow children to get to know each other, to include each other, to understand each other- to look out for each other, even if there are differences. And I want that for her- so I will stay up late on Saturday night and I will vacuum up upteen jillion popcorn kernels on Sunday.
And I will marvel at how she has moved up another stage- another level- another year. How being 9 creates new challenges and new dramas and how my pink bundle of potential is learning more and more about herself and about the world. How my role has changed; how she is change itself.
But no matter what, she’ll always be my baby… I don’t really want to stop her turning 9, but I sure can appreciate the journey we’ve had.
Happy birthday, darling girl!