Thursday, July 26, 2012

On calendrical arbitrariness

This past weekend I took both of the kids to a birthday party; technically the invitation had been extended to the little guy, but with my wife working during the same timeframe, I was toting two for the price of one. The party was held at one of the local houses-of-bounces, which is one of the little guy’s all-time favorite places to play for any occasion (including “too rainy/hot/&c. to run around outside”) and thus was a guaranteed good time for him, but the little girl had some fun, too. She’s resiliently rough-and-tumble (though I suppose with a big brother like hers, that’s a given) and she enjoys things that are loud and fast (ibid) so being jostled around with other kids on top of a giant inflatable pad makes her laugh. I went into the open, younger-skewing bouncy house with her, and when I decided it was time to get out and take a breather, she squirmed and yowled to express her displeasure at the forced exit pretty clearly. Fortunately, she was mollified later by the availability of birthday cake.

While I was sitting with both munchkins during said obligatory (twist my arm) cake consumption, I got to thinking about the little girl’s own first birthday party a few months ago. I’ve been saying “She just turned one in April” whenever people ask me how old she is, but my wife has recently started adding “Fifteen months” to that statement, I guess partly because not everyone can do the mental calendar math instantaneously, but also because fifteen months is a pretty significant age marker for human offspring. Or my offspring, at any rate, as I seem to recall all of this applying to the little guy in approximately equal measure. At twelve months old, neither of my children could walk much on their own, but at fifteen months they were tearing around the house (or anywhere else my wife or I were brave enough to set them on their feet). They were literally speechless at their own parties, yet babbling animatedly twelve or so weeks on. Also, neither of my children was overly enthusiastic about their own first birthday cakes, as I remember. I don’t know if there was an opportunity for my son to sample it again three months later, but at the bounce house party my one-and-a-quarter daughter could not scarf down the devil’s food and white buttercream fast enough. There just generally seems to have been a certain quality of tentativeness that both my children evinced around their respective first birthdays, which had largely fallen by the wayside a season or so later.

It’s enough to make me wonder why we bother having first birthday parties for our children at all. OK, not really, I get the old-as-the-human-race concept of how significant every trip around the sun is. Life equals time on Earth and all that, and we measure time by certain standardized increments. So maybe what I’m saying is that we should add another celebration into the mix. Go ahead and acknowledge happy birthday number one, if for no other reason than to lay the groundwork for all the subsequent commemorations of the date the kid entered the world. Possibly consider ramping it down a notch though, to the immediate family and grandparents? I can’t tell you how many first birthday parties I’ve been to where the guest of honor is totally freaked out by the noise, the press of bodies, and the general overstimulation. Or, barring that, the one-year-old ignores their presents, or spits out their cake. But what a difference three months makes! If the big party with other kids and balloons and toys and cake was thrown right around the fifteen (or sixteen or eighteen) month mark, I think a better time would be had by all, including and especially the wee honoree. It would feel more significant, and the child would get to be involved as more of an active participant and less of a prop.

It’s too late for me to organize anything like that for my daughter, of course, but consider this an idea free for the taking offered to the rest of you who have yet to embark on the childrearing adventure. The Fifteen-Month Festivity! It’s totally going to be a thing.

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