Today was my son’s third birthday. It was also his first birthday that was celebrated with friends on the actual date. To give you a little background, we left the United States when Drake was 11 months old. Three of the boys celebrated their first birthdays together. In his case, just a little early. Thankfully, since we were getting ready to move, my sympathetic friends handled every detail. We just showed up. It was fun and crazy, but not something he would remember just yet. His actual birthday was celebrated, just the three of us in a temporary house in Greenwich, England. An amazing temporary house, but one where we didn’t yet have friends with whom to celebrate. It was nice, but also quiet.
His second birthday was celebrated with equally as little fanfare. Our initial “permanent house” turned out to have an insidious mold problem that had been hidden with copious amounts of pain. After 10 months there, we were finally able to leave the small village of Horsell and head to the big city, Guildford, Surrey. Unfortunately, this meant that once again we were in a new place with no friends to help us celebrate. Still, he was once again young enough to not be bothered. He was just happy to eat cake 😃
We are now set to move to Sweden, but, we haven’t moved just yet. This meant that finally, we were able to celebrate his birthday not only with friends, but since it is a Sunday, also on the actual date! Jackpot! Here is the conundrum; we’ve never hosted a birthday party and we have a very small house. Toddlers, inexperienced hosts, small house…oh oh; this could have been a recipe for disaster.
Thankfully, it was not; most likely because of the impending move. Our tiny house feels much larger after we gave away a couch, two shelving units, a recliner, and an area rug. The only furniture in the living room is a collapsible table with 4 dining room chairs and a small storage trunk on which sits our tree that now only holds lights. After adding a picnic blanket, a train set, and a box of trains, it still felt very roomy; at least until the guests arrived.
We invited four close friends and their awesome children to celebrate the big 3. Last night I put together one of those box cake mixes because who has time with a toddler and a move to make a cake from scratch? I also wrapped up some small books for the kids to take home, because it’s no fun when you don’t get a present at that age. The big day arrived this morning and all looked well, until the #3 candle broke as it came out of the package. Oh, well… As the first guests arrived, my husband was dispatched to the grocery store. Thankfully, it was 10am the day after Boxing Day, so the store was open.
Eventually, all four friends and their four children arrived. Suddenly, the house did not feel as roomy and my lack of hosting experience shone through. My toddler grabbed every present as they came through the door and immediately opened them. I figured, “why fight it?” and apologized. They totally understood. At least he said “thank you.”
Teas were made and my friends were too polite to tell me when I gave them the wrong ones; they drank them anyway. Ready made snacks were devoured and the cake was a huge hit with the small ones. Finally, after a couple hours, we graduated to coffee, because, who wouldn’t after 2 hours in a house surrounded by toddlers? Meanwhile, I whipped up some home made lotion in the kitchen for the ladies to take home as a treat. Not my best time management choice, but doing something for them made me feel good; their friendship means so much to me.
Finally, as naptime rapidly approached, we said our goodbyes and planned for one last visit. It was a crazy day, but a memorable one. The birthday boy had an amazing time and I think everyone else did too. A valuable lesson from this is that if you have the opportunity to celebrate in the midst of something like this, grab onto it. Those memories will be the ones that help you when you are struggling to re-establish yourself. Snippets of conversation via programs like Whatsapp and Voxer will be even more meaningful when you have awesome memories playing in your mind.
I’m so thankful that this year we had a chance to celebrate with friends. It wasn’t hard, it wasn’t stressful, it wasn’t without gaffes, but it was perfect. An empty room, a box cake, some heat up snacks, bags of tea; that isn’t so hard, is it? Even someone moving can handle that.
Thank you England for the memories. I hope Drake’s next birthday in Gothenburg is just as grand.