The hubs and I survived our toddler boy’s fourth birthday party. We made all the sensible moves in our favor: hosted the party in his daycare classroom on a weekday after naptime, as to have peak excitement and not to have to sanitize our house; relayed a fun “Cat in the Hat” theme through which we could readily find party-related needs; and elicited the assistance of Jrue’s two primary teachers, who were invaluable in their suggestions. Of course, the costs to throw such a shindig for 30 kids and caretakers was a bit unexpected, but I’m not sure I even remotely considered how much pizza, chips, and cupcakes we needed to ensure satisfaction for everyone, not to mention the fact that the babies needed some type of “thank you for attending” souvenir. And their little tables needed DIY centerpieces, didn’t they? And Jrue loves balloons. So.
The toddlers’ hopeless thrill over pepperoni and cheese and buttercream frosting had the same colorful, pleasurable frenzy I exhibit when I’m presented with free food. They delighted over their peers’ “Cat in the Hat” art pages and volunteered crayon tips and proper usage techniques. They belted out a joyful rendition of “Happy Birthday” as Jrue sat at Table 1 and made hilarious unimpressed faces. Food crumbs and cake particles were everywhere. Little mouths were smashed red and teal to match what had hit the floor.
It was such a magnificent chaos. One we were so honestly grateful not to have to clean.
What was most surprising, however, is that no one seemed to have had more fun, including the birthday boy, than his little sister. Jai’s attendance was two-fold: we wanted her to experience a daycare atmosphere, albeit for just a short while, and we didn’t want her to miss the celebration of her brother’s birth. We didn’t know how she’d take to the bigger children…if their endless activity would make her cower…if she’d spend her time in anxious tears.
We couldn’t have predicted the animation that just erupted from her out of nowhere.
This little lady showed up stag to the party and left as the Prom Queen.
Jai raced around the classroom with no real destination, like she had been there before, flapping her arms largely like an eager chick. Her legs matched the intensity, propelling her little body speedily, barely missing other much-larger obstructions and running kids. Jai didn’t care. She pulled books and toys off the neatly-organized shelves. She thrust her face up closely to the unnamed classroom turtle’s glass home. (Though, for some reason, I’m sure the poor creature was unfazed at the big human kid’s face at his window.) Jai danced and waved and smiled and was overall much more charming and outgoing than in normal circumstances. Jrue’s teachers delighted in her. She fit right in.
We didn’t recognize our own child. She was the coolest thing walking.
I recall something interesting I read about Jai’s possibilities as a second-born child that could answer the question regarding her sudden extroverted sprout of involvement. In the article, “Second Borns–Lucky Position or Victims of Bad Timing?” author Michael Grose wrote, “The second born child leads a different life to that of the first born. His or her life will in all likelihood revolve around the life of the first born. Seconds had better get used to tagging along after the first born because they will in all likelihood accompany the first born to playgroup and pre school activities. They are often woken from their afternoon naps so adults can pick up the first born from school. Second borns learn to fit in so flexibility is often a key component of their personality.” (Grouse, n.d.)
Jai adopted the best of a potentially unpleasant post and made it her own moment, impressing the heck out of her parents and upending the cuteness held by her big brother. She ruled the party. Her apparent public liberation may be the start of something.
Grouse, Michael. “Second Borns–Lucky Position or Victims of Bad Timing?” Brainy Child, n.d., http://www.brainy-child.com/article/second-borns.shtml. Accessed Jun. 9, 2017.