Once upon a time, a year or so ago, one of my coworkers — not Heather — was talking to me about planning a birthday party for her son, who was turning 4.
And, as a single guy with no kids for whom that whole world was alien, it seemed insane.
Fast forward to this past weekend. I’m at KidVenture with more kids than I can count building a cake wearing a pirate bandana. What brave new world is this, that has such parties in it.
It still seems a little insane. The party probably cost more than all the presents put together. Caden could have asked for something that cost that much for his birthday, and been told it was way too much. The cake alone probably cost more than any single gift, and — and I can’t stress this enough — came with instructions. The cake cost that much, and didn’t even come fully assembled. I had to build the cake in situ.
On the flip side, the cake was, as Heather put it, “a birthday miracle.” I won’t tell the story behind it, since she blogged it better than I could, but it really was a little slice of happy ending. The look on Caden’s face when he saw it was wonderful, but it didn’t do justice to the look on his mom’s face when she brought it out of the grocery store.
And the party was a wish fulfillment for Caden. He loves dressing up. LOVES dressing up. He comes home from school, and immediately changes into a ninja or Iron Man or a clone trooper or something. It’s like what they say about Batman — Batman is the reality, Bruce Wayne is just a costume. Caden’s in costume when he wears civvies to go to daycare. That’s pretend. The real Caden is a superhero. All he wanted from Santa was a sword. And armor. And two shields. And lately, the real Caden has been a pirate. Iron Man and the clone trooper have been getting short breaks as the pirate becomes the normal go-to.
So Sunday night, Caden got to dress like a pirate, and be on a pirate ship, and have rings and gold coins and eye patches and other treasure and share his booty with his friends. So, yeah, maybe the money would have bought a bigger and better toy or something, but buying Caden the Pirate a night on his own pirate ship was kinda priceless.
As the party got closer, we began to worry. The snowpocalypse was upon us, and we were afraid it would come before the party was over, or, more to the point, that other people would be afraid it would, and decide not to come lest they be trapped. We watched the radar with bated breath.
And then, right as we were setting up, the phone calls started coming. And every time it rang, our hearts skipped a beat. Here comes the first person to send regrets. But that first call was for directions. Others were similar. There was one regret, from someone who had to be in Birmingham that night; completely understandable. But the place ended up being packed. I’m not sure about Heather, but the number of kids was quite adequate for me.
For me, it was an interesting experience. For the kids, I’m part of their life. But this was a new thing, being the guy there setting up the cake and thanking people for coming. And it wasn’t an entirely uncomfortable fit, really.
So, yeah, fast forward to now, and the whole kid party still seems kinda insane. But, you know, that may not be a bad thing.