Andy’s 5th birthday party or the care and feeding of a social butterfly

I’d been dreading it for weeks. My little boy Andy would be turning five and I succumbed to the pressure to throw a kid’s party for him. I was clueless. How many kids to invite? How many hours long should the party be? What would we do during those long hours? How would I avoid a complete mental breakdown if it rained the day of the party?

I volunteered to ‘help’ a friend with her 5 year olds birthday party. It was more for ideas of what to do than anything else. She seemed organized enough. I thought I could simply copy her party but then she volunteered to help at my party! My husband would not be around on the day so I would be doing this alone if it weren’t for her.

Andy wanted a Ninja Turtle party but his little girlfriend said she wouldn’t come if that was the theme. We settled on a dolphin party. I created some handmade invitations complete with a movable blue paper dolphin and we set off on my bike to mail them. Although we’d already made a list of ten(!) kids Andy asked to invite an eleventh as we rode to the post office. I refused.

In a moment of temporary insanity I hosted my book club earlier the same week as the birthday party. Never do this. For the book club I made the first of many double batches of brownies that week.

It’s the custom here for the one who has the birthday to treat the other kids in the class. In the school handbook is a plea to keep the treats healthy but of course that is difficult and risks making your kid unpopular. I baked two double batches of brownies for a headcount of approximately 28 kids. I stole my friend’s idea of simply piping white icing ‘5s’ on each of the cookies. I asked my neighbor what was the custom about getting his teachers presents and she said something about a card and chocolates. I made yet another dolphin card, this time with movable gold dolphins on a silver card. And bought a box of mini candy bars.

You must understand while I really enjoy making homemade cards, it’s more because I’m stingy than having any artistic ability. The same reason applies to baking brownies in place of buying a cake. Last year his cake cost 30 Euro (about the same in dollars).

The day dawned. Of course it was ‘show & tell’ day and library day as well. Andy decided to take ‘Carter’ his wind up musical stuffed dog for show & tell. I called the carpool mother and told her I’d be bringing my son in myself so we could celebrate his birthday. I arrived very early so we sat in the car for a couple of minutes to calm myself.

Once in the classroom I sat uncomfortabley as all the kids and parents streamed in and congratulated me. When the teacher showed me the card Andy had made to take around as he passed out chocolates to his other teachers, I put my card away. I wonder how many years of my life have been spent in excruciating awkwardness? Andy took his place by his teacher and donned his dark blue and orange crepe paper hat. Juf (Miss) explained that he’s chosen the blue. I thought, and kept to myself, ‘probably because that is the color of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Leonardo’s ninja mask.

All the children sit in a circle; they each have a chair with their name on it.

After all the other parents were gone it was very easy to see who was sick that day. I thought, ‘that’s a very clever way to avoid taking attendance.’ The teacher left to fetch me a cup of tea and all hell broke lose. I think it’s my aura. It just makes kids act up.

Anyway first they sang Happy Birthday in as many languages as possible. I swear the words to it in Japanese sounded like, ‘Teriyaki Kung fu’. Do the kids really think those are the words in Japanese? Or does the teacher think that it gives them a feel for foreign languages? She must be right, because you’ve got to admit the Dutch excel at foreign tongues. Then Andy was allowed to pick five other kids in the class to sing a song of their choosing. With each song the teacher lit a votive. One boy, Hidde had brought a guitar for show & tell, when Andy chose him we were treated to a very long 15 seconds of strumming on an untuned instrument.

We passed out the brownies and I realized I should have brought napkins. Boy those things really generate crumbs! When they found out that I had baked them myself, Julian said, ‘that deserves a round of applause!’

Then Andy remembered his dog and asked if Carter could sing a song. What had been noisy chaos became absolute quiet as Carter’s music box play. Carter’s head also rotates ever so slightly you have to really concentrate to detect the movement.