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A not-so-happy birthday, but that’s OK

Submitted by on Sunday, 1 June 2008 No Comment

Originally published June 25, 2007, thehive.modbee.com

It was a passable little Thomas birthday cake, considering the (lack of) time and effort put into it.

Maybe one of these days Little Guy look at the pictures. Because he barely glanced at the cake this weekend. Not until it was sliced and one his plate, that is.

Little Guy was not exactly the life of his birthday party. He’s never the life of any party. Christmas Day, he spent most of the afternoon alone in a corner, playing with Big Guy’s cowboy doll, and he was perfectly happy going unnoticed.

At birthday parties, though, people usually notice the guest of honor. Which made for an awkward situation for Little Guy.

The trouble started when guests showed up early, while Little Guy still was napping. I was going to let him sleep, but while I went to the garage to get plates and cups – isn’t that where everyone keeps their party ware? – Dad snuck into the bedroom and woke him up.

Uh oh! There’s a ritual to waking up Little Guy, and only two people in the world know it – Big Guy and me. Hug, whisper, stroke. Repeat as needed.

Having started off on the wrong foot, Dad stepped in it with the other one by carrying the birthday boy into a room full of people. People who wanted to hug him and cheer happy birthday.

Waaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh! MomMA!!!!!!!!!!!”

I think air raid sirens even went off.

That, too, is a pattern with Little Guy. He doesn’t like people in his face. He barely likes people, period. The day he was born, he got red-faced and shrieky if there were more than two other people in our hospital room. He was miserable the day of his christening, as guests pinballed him from one set of arms to another.

Contrast that to Big Guy, who practically asked my obstetrician “Where’s the party?” He’s never met a crowd he didn’t love.

So it was up to Big Guy to take over the duties as honorary birthday boy this weekend. He was only too happy to oblige. The first present Big Guy opened was a Thomas that plays music and shoots steam. Little Guy sat back on his haunches and stared suspiciously. He studied Big Guy making a few laps around the living room and, after seeing that the strange new toy hadn’t amputated his brother, he accepted it.

The cake was another story. Maybe Thomas’ off-kilter smile was scary. Little Guy took one look and freaked. Dad picked him up and tried to get him to sit, thinking that once Little Guy realized the Slightly Demented Engine was food, he’d be OK.

He wasn’t. More shrieking, more tears, and, then, acceptance. He pointed a chubby finger at the cake. Unfortunately, the finger made contact with the candle, and we were off again.

“Waaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh! MomMA!!!!!!!!!!!”

He settled a bit after we put him in the high chair. “YES! Familiar territory!” his face said. The cake and ice cream were on a square plate, so that confused him, too. He just wasn’t sure what to do until I handed him a fork. “Ah-HA! A point of reference!” Roughly 3.6 minutes later, he was pushing the odd plate toward me and demanding, “More!”

The two enduring images of Little Guy’s second birthday – the panic-stricken shriek as he approached the cake and the red-black-and-blue face and fingers as he finally shared the cake with his new Thomas.

The first is almost painful to look at, but I refuse to delete it. It’s real. It’s life with a 2-year-old struggling to make his way in the world. And it’s a reminder that it’s my job to act as his tour guide.

Copyright 2007 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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