My responsibilities for birthday parties have always been limited: writing a check, picking up the bill at a restaurant, making a simple meal, and talking with guests.
Then I agreed to give a little party at my house for my great- grandson Cohl who just had his third birthday. I worried more than a bit even after my granddaughter Hailey told me that kids just play. And I do have quite a few toys stashed at one place and another in my living room. But I still worried.
Then Cohl’s mother said she’d bring the birthday cake and candles. Check.
Decorations? I thought about this long and hard and decided not to do any.
Invitations and confirmations? Cohl’s Uncle Quentin indicated he might drive up from Kentucky, no short distance for a toddler’s party. And he did, bringing his trick Hungarian sheepdog Cash, a great addition to any party with his black dreadlocks and pleasant disposition.
Grandparents Lance and Rhonda came a day early from Kenton and picked up the birthday boy to spend the night with us. Because his birthday was coming up, they let me give him Cow Tails, which he loved but which kept him very active into the wee hours of the morning. I went to bed at my usual time and left them to handle the riot.
On the day, Aunt Hailey showed up from Kettering with daughter Parker, soon to be three, and twins Kipton and Corwin, soon to be ten months old. When she arrived in Piqua, she drove around town for a good while because the twins needed to complete the naps they started on the drive so as not to be cranky at the party.
Food was not an issue. I made a huge salad which few ate, and Cohl’s mother ordered the pizzas from a local restaurant after spending thirty minutes with indecisive guests about what they wanted and didn’t want. Thank heaven for delivery. Food. Check.
From the onset, there was the issue of gifts and games. I want my readers to know that you never buy toys for little ones without consulting parents. Kids already have many, some are age inappropriate, and some are not desirable for too many reasons to list. I thought tricycles might be good for Cohl and Parker whose birthday party was a week away. I learned that Cohl already had two tricycles, and Parker’s parents wanted to buy hers. I had thought that tricycles would be a good gift with my mechanical genius Quentin on site to put them together. With advice from parents, I managed on the toy issue with a local trip and another two trips to Sidney.
But what do toddlers do at a party? I finally decided on the following: (1) buy a Christmas tree and soft ornaments for little hands to decorate the tree. Nothing small or breakable. (2) After two phone calls and two trips, I located the little craft kit where kids put their hands onto a Christmas decoration and create an ornament for their tree to memorialize this season of their lives. (3) Then, I found Halloween costumes at 90 percent off and bought four to fit the twins and the toddlers for some play time and great photo opportunities.
Had I planned enough? I over-planned. Hailey was right: they played with the old toys, didn’t seem much interested in the new ones although Uncle Quentin loved the big dinosaur and I loved the poseable African animals.
Someone read the directions on the handprint kits (Quentin had insisted on always following directions and had when putting the tree together, and Cohl was very eager to help), and I decided to send those kits home with the parents. Too messy and complicated for me.
There was no time for the Halloween costumes, so I packed them away for Parker’s party next week.
As the Kettering guests were departing, Parker didn’t want to leave my house, and I loved that. Cohl was sound asleep on the couch between dad Tyler and mom Ele. Quentin was giving Cash one more time in the yard before the long trip back to Kentucky and taking a few dozen cans of Mountain Dew to his truck. I insisted that Rhonda and Lance take leftover pizza, salad and Cokes to create a little space in my refrigerator. As I surveyed the living room, I noticed Ele’s coffee container and shouted at her from the porch. I learned it was her favorite.
I checked to make sure parents had Great Grandpa Jack’s birthday cards and money in purses and cleaned up a few empty cans and napkins on tables in the living room.
With plentiful kisses, hugs, and a dozen expressions of “I love you,” I turned all the lights off to look at the Christmas tree, all 7 feet of it, sat in my recliner, and reflected on my blessings which are so much more than I could have ever imagined.
Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and to work with veterans. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or [email protected]