Today my youngest son turns 5. This means for me, his mother,
it's almost show time.
Birthdays have become a dilemma in my household. With four
children of various ages and personality types, each birthday
celebration must be custom fit. I have the social child, who would
invite 50 people to his birthday parties if I'd let him. I have the
shy child, who likes the idea of parties, but when the actual party
comes, he becomes overwhelmed. My daughter, the baby, hasn't yet
developed her own style of birthday celebration, but I know it will
involve sparkly pink things.
My 5-year-old is still developing his birthday style, too. And,
as most 5-year-olds' minds work, his imagination conjures grand
scenarios that I can never match. Just this morning, he said,
"Maybe for my birthday, I can walk down the street with a crown on
my head and people will throw candy at me and I can fill my
Candy coronations aside, I am focusing on the cake. For weeks,
the birthday boy has been excited about a cake he saw in a magazine
shaped like an acoustic guitar, frets made of chocolate, strings
made of bright red licorice.
I will try to recreate it, but how can I match the picture he
has in his mind?
These are the times I feel the most unprepared. I have a college
degree from a liberal arts school where I studied hard, wrote
in-depth analyses of British poets, studied a foreign language. But
nowhere in the college course catalog was there anything about "How
to Bake Guitar Cakes." Come to think of it, I also could've used
courses in "How to Potty Train a Strong-Willed Child" or "Fight or
Flight: What To Do When Your Child Throws a Tantrum in the Middle
of the Cereal Aisle."
What faces me now is an apron, a mixing bowl and a child's eyes
brimming with hopeful expectation. I hope he goes to sleep tonight
with chocolate smudged on his sweet little cheek, happy with
memories of possibly his greatest birthday ever.
If I'm lucky, I won't burn the cake.
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