Posted by: laughs4dads | October 22, 2010

The Mess of Honor, Part I

Among the large number of extremely silly things that parents do, on the “Extremely Silly Things” list right above “buying little musical instruments,” is throwing birthday parties for one-year olds.

First, the baby has no idea what the occasion is all about, or that there is an occasion at all. However, the little person becomes instantly aware that something is afoot when she is thrust into a party dress instead of her comfy OshKoshes and brought to a room with a lot of people.

Now, let’s look at this from the kid’s point of view.  First, I’ve probably just figured out how to walk a week ago and, while this new method of mobility is exciting, I propel myself forward with the grace and confidence of a drunk on stilts.  I am now required to do this among a maze of other toddlers as sure-footed as I am, not to mention a mass of knees.  To make matters worse, the knees are all connected to adults, many of whom I have never seen before and all of whom are making disgusting “ooohhing” sounds.

And this is supposed to be a happy affair.

If parents really wanted their babies to have a good time on their birthdays, they’d take a group of kids and set them down in a mudhole for an hour.  Now that’s fun.

But instead, there’s this room.  On one side is a bunch of kids trading germs that will make them all sick tomorrow, and on the other side is a bunch of adults, some of which are nervously gazing at their kid on the other side of the room, and others who are either childless or smart enough to leave their kids home.  In between these two groups is a forlorn little girl, her beautiful party dress already covered in chocolate (which, as far as she’s concerned, is the best thing that’s happened to her all day), waddling about with a look that’s midway between dazed and petrified.  Immediately behind her, as if he is a jungle animal stalking his prey, is her father, a video camera seemingly glued to his eye, barking orders like “Smile,” “Turn Around” and the marvelously generic “Do Something!”

Fortunately, these affairs last only two hours or so, after which there is a trio of rituals: “The Opening of Presents,” “The Cleaning and Repair of Furniture” and “The Official Injury Report.”

I should point out here that the father described above was not me, and the party described above was not Casey’s.  Barbara and I, in a rare moment of sanity, decided not to throw our daughter a big first birthday bash.  Instead, we had two smaller affairs, one for her play group (which I wisely chose not to attend) and one for an intimate collection of relatives. 

This worked out well.  The first party was not at all traumatic, as it appeared to Casey to be just a normal play group with the added attractions of being able to play with gift wrapping and stick her face into a slice of birthday cake.

The relative party had a few interesting moments, particularly when we opened a present from someone and spent a number of fascinating minutes trying to guess what the hell it was, besides ugly.  The grand finale, of course, and the highlight for Casey, was sticking her face in the birthday cake for the second time in a week.

to be continued

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