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Party Animal II

For the second year in a row, Simon enjoyed someone else’s birthday party better than his own. Turning one sent Simon into a puddle of despair. As the family gathered around to sing, he became overwrought and overwhelmed, and he dissolved into tears. Then, six short weeks later, we went to his friend Colin’s first birthday party, and he had a blast eating, talking to everyone, and playing with Colin’s new and old toys.

This year Simon had a fine time in the proximity of his party. Nothing was going to keep him in the middle of all the action, but he was happy enough playing in his house on the periphery. Then Tuesday, three short weeks after his own party, he went to his cousin Olivia’s. The group was about half the size of the one we had, but owing to the lousy weather, everyone was inside. It’s the exact scenario that I’d expect to lead to Simon’s undoing: lots of people, lots of hustle-bustle, and lots of noise, but not a lot of space.

But there Simon was, eating his pizza and cheese sticks, devouring his chocolate cake, greeting everyone, playing with balloons, running around with balloons, and pushing a stroller in endless loops around the house. He never let up! The kid was a ball of physical and emotional energy-all positive-for a solid two hours. He had so much fun and was so on that I almost felt guilty for thinking him so difficult mere hours beforehand.

On a related note, I certainly watched events unfold in a more interested way this year. Steve and Stacy kept telling me that this year’s party would be “very simple” and “no big deal” owing to its occurring on a school night. If they want to call it no big deal they are welcome to, but I saw things very differently.

Olivia’s seven-year-old sister Madeline helped decorate the house with balloons and streamers. She put up a sign with the night’s menu in the foyer, wrote Olivia a lovely note on a card she made herself, and gave Olivia some of her own allowance money as a present. Six year old Ben played happily throughout the night and let Olivia stay in the spotlight. And for her part, Olivia baked her own cake, beamed over every gift, and graciously thanked everyone.

I couldn’t help but admire them all and consider the parenting that resulted in such an evening. As much as I hate to argue with big brother (well, not really…), I have to counter his assertion about last night. Nothing simple going on there at all, and quite special indeed.

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