The day before Kitty’s birthday I was running around like a headless chicken who frequently has to stop and nurse a baby while looking at the chaos surrounding her and mentally scrolling through the list of things still to be done before the morning that seems to have imprinted itself on her retinas whenever she closes her eyes.
Yes, that chicken. Fortunately we had ample help of the Uncle, Auntie and Grandpa variety and by the time Saturday turned into Sunday it was starting to feel like we might just make it.
Presents were wrapped and piled on the breakfast table, a f orest of helium balloons were tied to the back of Kitty’s chair and I’d made batter for a Mickey Mouse waffle breakfast, a triple layer Black Forest Victoria birthday cake tiled in giant chocolate buttons, and a lemon passion fruit sponge covered very inexpertly in fondant, pink and red letters and wafer butterflies that we took to church on Sunday morning to celebrate both Kitty and a dear church friend who shares her birthday.
If there was anything missing it was our birthday banner which I remember finding at the beginning of the summer and putting in a very safe place, and if anyone knows where that is, please do let me know. My only consolation is that perhaps she’s not quite tall enough to have been able to see it anyway.
It felt for all the world like trying to pull off Christmas, just without the mince pies.
In previous years Kitty has enjoyed her birthday, loved being the centre of attention, the sudden arrival of new toys, and even got over her deep suspicion of candles and cake that marked her first birthday celebrations, but this was I think the first year where she really got what a birthday was about, why we were celebrating, and most importantly, when.
It’s the first year that she’s actually asked “when is it my birthday?” and counted down the days. She’s been talking about cake for weeks, with varying requests for chocolate, strawberry and vanilla and has been very consistent about wanting to have her party at church (hence the second cake).
I’m always going to want to celebrate my children, to make a big fuss of them on their special day, what parent doesn’t, but this year it felt like the first birthday that would actually count.
I know she won’t remember her first birthday except in photos, and I’ve always thought that first birthday parties are as much for the parents to celebrate their joy in their baby as it is for the slightly bemused one year old presented with a slice of cake and a lot of other people touching their toys. Her second and third birthdays were lovely, but again, I suspect the memories will be prompted not organic, but this year, this could be the first of the birthdays that she really remembers for herself.
And I think that’s why I wanted it to be even more special and perfect and wonderful, to justify her excitement and her understanding and to live up to all of her expectations of what a birthday should be, and for all the right reasons.
I think we did it. I really hope we did it. I know she loved her breakfast, sat in balloon festooned splendour at the head of the table eating waffles and maple syrup and handfuls of blueberries and raspberries; she was all shy smiles standing at the front of church while we sang Happy Birthday; and when her birthday cake came through the door covered in candles you couldn’t have found a smilier four year old.
And I think that for the first time she understood a little more that each of her presents had been chosen and given by the people that love her most; she seemed to really take time over each one, and they’ve all been opened and explored and played with, and taken to bed/nursery/the butchers, each a mark of deep appreciation.
We tried to make it about saying ‘yes’ wherever we could, including handing over a gigantic slice of birthday cake and trusting that she’d only eat a normal size portion (a gamble that fortunately paid off); about spending time with family; and about slowing down and just enjoying being in the moment.
Definitely a birthday to remember.