Thursday, September 17, 2015

Just a bit excessive

If you look at each year as a progression from one Big Event to the next, with varying uneventful stretches in between, then for my family in particular you could see how the year progresses from New Years through relatively quiet winter before hitting the bino's birthday in mid-March followed soon after by the little girl's birthday three and a half weeks later in April. Then there's another few months of lull, then my wife's birthday in July, then usually (and getting more predictably consistent now that we're done having children) a family beach vacation in August, with the little guy's birthday hot on the heels of that at the beginning of September. My birthday is almost exactly four weeks after the little guy's, and then it's time to get ready for the big three of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. (I'm eliding over some stuff like Valentine's Day, our wedding anniversary, and so on, because those tend not to be all five of us celebrating all together.)

My point, here, is that due to the accidents of birthdates, our two youngest children don't quite share their annual special day but do have them one on top of the other, big picture-wise. Whereas their older brother gets his birthday all to himself almost six months after the bino's. We haven't (yet) sunken to combining the littler ones' birthdays into one catch-all jubilee or anything, but this does mean that when the little guy's birthday rolls around and he is both the center of attention and practically swimming in new loot, it's hard to offer any of the standard consolations to the little girl and bino. No "well you just had a birthday, too, remember?" because it was basically an eternity ago from their perspective; likewise no "your birthday is coming soon" for the same reason. Even invoking Christmas is a dicey proposition since it's well over a full season away at that point. So far we've managed to get through the past few Septembers without too many gigantic freakout blowouts, but then again, this year, with a two and a half year old bino, is the first one where both younger sibs are fully aware of what's going on and capable of jealousy. Next year could be catclysmic.

And yet, maybe this year we're more or less innoculating them against such future traumas, because we seem to have inadvertently turned one planetary orbit anniversary into an entire month of festive feting. Previously we've had a birthday party for the little guy on or close to his actual birthday, which conveniently tends to be Labor Day Weekend-adjacent. We've invited a few of his little friends from the neighborhood, from school, and from hanging-out-with-our-parent-friends-who-have-similarly-aged-children, plus the local grandparents and aunt and uncle. All well and good. But now the little guy is a second grader, and he identifies his classmates as his closest friends, which means they get birthday invites (and rightly so!); the complication there is that his birthday tends to fall in the first week of school, so the whole notion of bringing invitations to pass out in the classroom doesn't leave those kids' parents much time to plan or even RSVP. Thus we hit upon the idea this year of having a family party at the beginning of the month and also having a friends party at the end of the month. That is perhaps double the amount of parties a child arguably needs, but in our defense I think we'll always on some level be trying to make up to the little guy the fact that he had to go to his very first day of kindergarten right on his actual fifth birthday. So there's that.

The plan went slightly askew when the bino fell ill with some undefined bug right before the scheduled family party, so in deference to our little seven-month-old niece we rescheduled for the following weekend. But of course we still cooked a special dinner for the little guy on his actual birthday, and he got his presents from mom and dad. So at that point he was due for three parties (or semi-parties): nuclear family, extended family a week later, and friends two weeks after that. His birthday effectively took over the entire month.

And let us not forget that he's still the only one of our three kids who goes to five-day-a-week school. That debatably could be put forth as something the littler ones have to be happy about in contrast to their brother, but sometimes ... Last year, the behavior of everyone in the first grade class was monitored daily via a system of electronic bonuses and demerits and the deal was that at the end of each week, every kid who had maintained a high ratio of good points versus bad was entitled to select a prize from the teacher's treasure chest. That system is gone this year, replaced by something else, I'm still not entirely clear on the details because this time there's no online component to give the parents granular insight (Which in itself is a mixed bag, maybe meriting its own post some other time) but basically every day the kids have a status which can go up or down depending on their behavior and the top of the scale is "role model" (not sure what the bottom rung is, "agitator" or "persona non grata", maybe?) and now the reward is that the kids can pick a prize from the treasure chest at the end of the day any time they finish the day at the "role model" level. This is, from my perspective, better than the weeklong tally for all-or-nothing, because many was the time last year where the little guy would string together several great days of being on task and well-mannered, only to have one bad day throw off his weekly average beyond recovery.

However, as humorous coincidence would have it, the little guy was a role model of classroom conduct yesterday. So when I picked him and his siblings up from daycare, he had his brand new prize from the treasure chest, which actually was a really nice Beanie Baby ox (which the little guy christened "Biceratops" because he's back into dinosaurs again and also he's clever and hilarious) and of course he couldn't wait to show it off to his brother and sister. This put me in the precarious position of wanting to praise the little guy and be happy for him and encourage him to continue striving for role model status at all times, while also not wanting him to rub too much into the little ones' collective faces the fact that, after two separate gift-unwrapping extravaganza's with one more still to go, he got yet another cool new toy just for going to the school that they're not big enough for yet.

Sometimes it all gets a tad exhausting, is what I'm saying.

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