Tuesday, March 18, 2014

One (more) and done

Today is the baby's first birthday, and concurrently, the end of an era. The party will be this coming weekend, and that's it for me and my wife: no more highchair-situated introductions to the delights of cake, at least not within our immediate nuclear family. My Little Bro's wife is due with their first in July, and doubtless there will be many younger cousins to our children yet to come on both sides of the family. But we really are leaving behind a particular phase of our lives, the initial formation of our little clan. We won't be hosting any more birthday parties for a child turning one, at the very least not one of our own. From here on out the ages will tick upward over the years but the number of offspring living under our roof should stay fairly constant for a while.

Of course we thought as much was true a shade under two years ago, when the little girl turned one. We had just about wrapped our heads around the idea of infant-free existence when it became manifestly apparent that our third child was on the way. But to be fair, back then we were simply playing the odds and assuming that what seemed unlikely was in fact not going to happen; since then appropriate countermeasures have been taken such that I know with reasonable certainty that I won't be eating these words in a couple more years. And that is all to the good.

Another thing my wife and I managed to accomplish yesterday with our bonus day off from work was doing a little online shopping for the baby's birthday presents. They won't arrive for a couple more days, but that means they'll at least be here in time for the party (and it's not as if the baby himself has the faintest idea about today's annual significance just yet). My wife and I worry about each of our kids in different ways and for different reasons. With the little guy, we worry that we expect too much of him simply because we selfishly want him on our side helping out with the younger ones, not lining up with them as yet another bottomless pit of neediness (though he is that sometimes, and in moments of lucidity we know he can't help it at all). With the little girl, we worry that she'll suffer mightily form Middle Child Syndrome, not enjoying the trailblazing privileges of the oldest child and also not receiving the fawning last-hurrah attentions of the youngest. And with the baby, we worry that he'll be the victim of our exhaustion more often than not, that we'll shortcut things and shortchange him because we've already seen it all twice with the older kids. And to a certain extent, that's not something that is easy to consciously overcome. Because we do, in fact, have a metric ton of clothes that his big brother wore and outgrew four years ago or less, and it would be foolish to wantonly ignore that and buy an entire new wardrobe for the baby. And we also do, in fact, have approximately four billion toys in our house, scattered here and there, at least some of which are age-appropriate for twelve-month-olds. Yes, the baby is turning into his own little person, and yes he seems to have a genuine predilection for pushing around cars and trucks, but funny enough the little guy loved cars and trucks as a toddler, too, and expanding the fleet of toy vehicles is exceedingly difficult to justify.

So we didn't order any brand new fire engines per se but we did get a couple of playthings out of sheer commitment to the principle that the baby should have some things that are not hand-me-downs but his-and-his-alones. Although, I confess, one of the things we ordered was the ol' stacking rainbow of plastic rings, because (1) that is a certified classic and (2) yes, we used to have one and unsurprisingly the rings have been lost over the years (and who knows what ever befell the spindle). I can only hope that the baby appreciates the gesture.

So on Saturday afternoon we will gather with some friends and family and have some pizza and beer and birthday cake and good times. I should try to remember to make a wager with my wife as to who will be the first person to say "Ah, you buy a little kid a fancy toy and all they want to do is play with the box!" and how long it will take them to say it.

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