The Boy and The Girl’s birthdays are two weeks apart. Believe me, we were in no way able to plan it like that – it just happened. The Boy had already gate-crashed Gran’s birthday (the day after his), at the same time jumping in between our wedding anniversary, Daddy’s birthday and his uncle’s birthday in the same month. The Girl joined another busy month with Oma’s birthday, Opa and Oma’s wedding anniversary and now little Emilie’s birthday. Basically, autumn is a non-stop roller coaster of cake, presents and unusually fun activities. By the time Christmas was over and done with last year, the Boy had begun to assume that cake and chocolate were just part of our staple diet and that presents should be expected at any moment.
This year was a special birthday year.
The Girl turned 1. Inconceivable, still. That tiny little wrinkled thing, now sitting up in her highchair, stuffing her face with cake. Pointing and exclaiming and walking. The Boy was involved in all the preparations: we made cupcakes together and he chose her a present. It was perfect: a pink shape sorter bus with rattly shapes. He also helped pick her a card and wrote his name on it (read: held the pencil while I moved his hand). The Girl seemed very pleased with the attention. The unwrapping was interesting, but she was rather indifferent to her new toys – which was fortunate as the Boy had clearly been waiting for weeks to get his hands on that shape sorter bus and made off with it as soon as it came out of the box. The cake, however, was a definite hit. The look on her face was priceless: her mouth ringed with sugary icing, her birthday dress sprinkled with crumbs, her eyes slightly accusing: “Mummy, you kept this from me for a year!” She set about making up for lost time.
Two weeks later, the Boy turned 3. We had kept his first and second birthdays small, on the assumption that he probably wouldn’t remember them (and also because we were new-baby-zombies last year), but for his third birthday we decided it was party time. His excitement about Swashbuckle inspired us to book our church hall and plan a rip-roaring pirate adventure.
This was the first time he could anticipate his birthday. For weeks beforehand he would want to know how many more sleeps until his birthday. He would announce to strangers: “I going be three!” and then inform them how old Mummy and Daddy were for good measure. He would ask me out of the blue: “Is my birthday?” “No,” I’d have to say sadly, “Not yet. But soon.” We talked about his pirate party and who would be coming – basically all his friends. At one point, I asked him: “And who will be at your party?” “Gran,” he said. “Opa, Oma, Cassie – and the Numberjacks.” For a moment I was worried that perhaps we should have done a Numberjacks themed party instead, and that perhaps he would be disappointed, but I shook that off and carried on looking for shiny jewels on eBay.
When the day arrived, he drank it all in. Gran and Opa and Oma came over to do presents at home, then we dashed off to have a very hurried lunch and from there to the hall to get things ready for the party. Then, it was Swashbuckle time. Instead of boring you with a blow by blow account, I want to highlight the three top Magic Moments of this magical day – three moments where the look of awe and wonder and joy on our little boy’s face almost brought a tear to Mummy and Daddy’s eyes.
1. The moment he unwrapped Gran’s present and realised that the Numberjacks had come to his party.
Although Gran had actually bought him something else for his birthday, as an afterthought she got him three cuddly Numberjacks: 3, 4 and 5. As soon as he saw them, the Boy was in love. They have not left his side since. Every time we go out, he decides which Numberjack is going out on the mission. They are the first to have a wee in the morning before the Boy himself gets on the toilet, they watch him have a bath and they cuddle up with him at night. His joy is complete. Well, almost complete. Teddy has recently been renamed Numberjack 6 – we think it might be a hint for Christmas…
2. The moment he realised that he was in his very own episode of Swashbuckle.
In my party preparations I had included some Swashbuckle-style games, like dressing up a pirate and having a ‘Shipwreck Rummage’, i.e. a treasure hunt around the hall to find gold coins and jewels. That was where I had stopped, however. I thought that would do quite nicely. But when my theatre/film director husband asked for the details of the running order, he said it would not do. “It needs to be a proper
episode of Swashbuckle. You are Captain Sinker. I’ll be Line. Your Dad can be Cook. You need to tell the children they are going to win S’s jewels back by playing the games. Then they get to put them in the treasure chest. Put a bit of theatre into it!” And so it was done. When I put on the massive pirate captain’s hat and led the children in the Swashbuckle Salute, the look on our Boy’s face was priceless. He really was on Swashbuckle.
3. The moment with the cake.
The Boy loves singing Happy Birthday. At every birthday party it is the bit he looks forward to the most. We even have to sing it for characters in books, like Topsy and Tim. And when he gets to the end, he always blows out an imaginary candle on an imaginary cake. At his party, the lights went out, the pirate candles were lit and the cake was brought in. His little face, by the light of the candles, as the cake approached him, and he knew it was for him, and it was his special day, and the pirate cake was his – that I will not forget in a hurry.
All in all, the kids’ birthdays were a big success. I was a little worried about planning a party for 12 small people, but I think it went well and I am already thinking about what a Number Party might look like next year – with the Numberjacks in attendance, of course, as the guests of honour.