The little giant turned 2 last month, and we celebrated the occasion by doing quite a lot of nothing.
It wasn't technically nothing. We made cupcakes and sang, had a tiny party in the house with my oldest friend Alex, who sings "Happy Birthday" like a pro and made the rest of us look bad. We went on a sunset dolphin cruise, because there are few activities more enjoyable than chasing a 2-year-old around a moving sea vessel in the dark. We opened a bunch of presents from out-of-town relatives, then made a note to send them all thank-you cards -- HAHAHAHA, just kidding, never happened, but thanks guys, for real.
(The boy, for his part, marked the morning by spraying his blanket, crib sheets, crib bumpers, wall and floor with a festive spray of throw-up, which, now that I think of it, may have been a result of the cupcakes. He felt fine for the rest of his day, but it's hard to be enthusiastic about someone's birthday when they smell so terrible.)
We didn't have a big party, or even a small one, for one main reason: We're inveterate cheapskates. But also, the kid is 2. He eats peanut butter with his hands and only recently determined that when I leave the room, I don't evaporate from this plane of existence, so we figured one missed party probably wouldn't torpedo his childhood in any meaningful manner. Besides, if he had his way, the party would have been him on a couch thinking he's playing "Angry Birds Star Wars" and occasionally shouting an order for another chocolate milk, which he inexplicably refers to as "mono." (Have you ever been in a crowded restaurant with a toddler who's shrieking because you won't give him mono? It's a weird thing to explain to the servers.)
Now, not having a party didn't bother me, because as doctors keep reminding me, I am getting old, and the prospect of passing on a maelstrom of invitations, inflatable-thing rentals, icing-related shenanigans and post-cake kitchen hosing was not one we found entirely displeasing. But it was still something that, when told to some segment of other parents, caused just that minute, that little twinge, that unquenchable reaction of, "Oh, I see you loathe your child and are committed to denying him joy and wonder?" Jeez, other parents' internal monologues are wordy.
This is, I suppose, a natural reaction. Since our kids are more popular than we are, we go to our share of birthday parties; enough that they're almost becoming my most frequent source of weekend socializing, and by "almost" I mean, "they're like the only thing I do." I once went to Chuck E. Cheese for a birthday party for the son of a friend we no longer talk to because he held his kid's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. I attended one party that featured, and there's really no other way to say this, a camel. Yeah, I fed a camel carrots for 30 minutes one afternoon, in case anyone out there thinks that the excitement stops after you have kids.
We've had our share of parties at the house too, including my son's 5th, a delightful afternoon interrupted only briefly by the emergence of a large brushfire behind our house. (The kids thought we hired a fire truck, partly because, naturally, we told them we hired the fire truck, YOUR MOVE, OTHER NEIGHBORHOOD PARENTS.)
See, I am not one of these parents who likes to get into the whole "my birthday party is cooler than your birthday party" thing, because I will lose. When I was a wee tot, my most ambitious birthday gathering took place at the McDonald's in Mishawaka, Ind., and as part of the celebration, I remember stacking the old, non-biodegradable Big Mac containers, which was pretty awesome and more along the lines of what we're thinking here. I like my children very much, but it is not likely that I will ever procure them a camel.