You’ll have to excuse us at the Fun Apartment this month. We have birthday fatigue. Our Little grew a bit bigger a week or so ago and, well, the jump from four to five required quite a lot of effort and energy.
See, in New York, it is hard to just . . . have a birthday party. At least, it is hard to have a birthday party attended by more than one child. So we have been putting off whole the “birthday party with your friends” business because, well, there are difficulties to be faced. But we thought, if we kept it small in stature and size–only his three close friends–then it might just be manageable.
The main difficulty, as it always is in New York City, is space. It is at a premium, especially around the Fun Apartment where one kid coming over for a play date creates a standing room only situation. Also, all of our extra chairs are broken in various eyebrow-raising ways. We could go outside, of course. There are parks and playgrounds, but these will probably be too cold to sustain a party longer than half an hour — what poor planning to have winter children! We could try an expedition party and head off to some fun destination, but then one has to schlep a cake and gifts through the zoo or a museum, while still keeping track of the guests. (Telling another parent that you are sure that you saw their child somewhere in the room with the giant whale, an hour previous, tends to put a damper on budding friendships.) And our local restaurants will demand a rather exorbitant fee for the disruption that a party of five-year-olds would provide. Or they might just laugh in your face.
So our inner party-planners were stymied, and decided to sleep on it. That is, until we realized that the ideal party space lay not two feet from our sleeping heads! Our beloved neighbors recently decamped to Brooklyn in order to accommodate two new roommates: twin girls. Their apartment–Ready to rent! You could live there!–was standing empty. So they graciously allowed us to have a riotous party in their former living room.
Space problem resolved, we tackled the problem of theme. If only indecision could be considered a party theme. An early birthday present of a woolly mammoth convinced the birthday boy that an ice age-themed party was his heart’s most intense desire. But, just like last year, after I had already bought the sharks, he changed his mind, a mere five days before the guests were due to arrive. Wild Kratts, he insisted, was his one and only party idea. While I love these crazy bros, I was not so eager to embrace this new idea. But, because, I am able to see the bright side of everything, I did not collapse into a(nother) screaming panicking fit. Instead, I patted myself on the back for my foresight in accidentally holding onto our amazon prime membership I signed up for to get the Christmas presents here on time. (How was I to know that you had to actually cancel after the one month free trial??) Smart by accident again!” I congratulated myself, while clicking on the free two day shipping button! Soon, small quantities of various animal print goodies arrived at our door.
(Although, I will pause here to concur with a friend who thinks that it would be good for us all as a society, if we agreed to give up on this whole goody bag thing. Although I do like the idea of giving presents on one’s birthday, instead of expecting them. But what to do with all those random little items? I have a special bin, specifically for “small toys we got for free somewhere!” Perhaps I sort too much. At any rate, I digress too much.)
I even managed a crafty type thing I’ve been intending to do for years. “I know!” I thought. “I’ll clean out all these random broken crayons and melt them down into rainbow crayons! They’ll be perfect for the birthday party! They are recycled! There may now be room in the crayon bucket for all the crayons! I am a such a domestic demi-goddess / mad genius!” Naturally, this project was a disaster start to finish. After I wore my fingernails down to brightly colored stubs, the Mister asked “Why didn’t you just soak them to remove the paper?” Luckily we didn’t have to go to the emergency room to remove the crayons I stuffed up his nose. Chopping and melting the crayons was easy, but Martha Stewart neglected to mention that this process turn your previously-serviceable muffin tins into a brown field super fund site. And the rainbow crayons, while kind of cool looking, only color on one side. And they looked so interesting and unrecognizable that one unfortunate party guest mistook them for a colorful snack.
But despite my domestic demigoddess failings, it was a wildly, successful birthday party. And it was grand! My son and his three besties ran rampant. We opened the door to the Fun Apartment, and the door to the neighbors’ cool, enormous empty apartment and the guests immediately sorted themselves. The kids dove headlong into the Fun Apartment, pulling down every toy bin in reach (and a few I’m not entirely sure how they got to), while their parents enjoyed some adult celebrating in the cool whiteness of the neighbors’ apartment. I have always maintained that the secret to a good kid’s party is in the cocktails. Thus, I found myself at Chelsea Wine Vault asking the rather unlikely question: “What wine would you recommend for a five year old’s birthday party?” They picked a winner!
“Should we go check on the kids next door?” I asked, setting down my wineglass. This naive statement earned me such withering looks of pity–looks that said “No, of course not, you foolish woman. They are fine and will find us if they are bleeding.”
“I could really get good at this parenting of increasingly independent children,” I thought, passing the bottle around again.
The lads eventually joined us to wrestle in a large pile at the center of all that empty space. Then they invented a game that involved throwing their inflatable animals at each other. I’m sure it was something totally sanctioned by the Wild Kratts: Living Free and In the Wild!
Our guests stumbled home when the threat of bed time began to loom. I even thought about how fun it would be if we woke up in the morning with the three extra kids in residence. But alas, or luckily, they all departed for home–hopefully two steps ahead of an impending meltdown.
But by the time the school birthday party rolled around, I had run out of celebration stamina. Fridays are rough around here anyway and when you throw in attempting to make rice krispie treats with uncooperative marshmallows, let’s just say that the bloody decimated bodies of Snap, Krackle, and Pop, or those of their bastard cousins from Trader Joe’s, were littered throughout the Fun Apartment’s kitchen. I kept expecting the Keebler Elves to show up with some crime scene tape. And I showed up late at school anyway. But at least nobody took a bite of the rainbow crayons.
Another reason to celebrate: this little guy’s birthday is also a party for all of us Fun Apartment residents, because it was on his first full day in the world that we decided to move back to New York, in a post-natal haze, with only a vague sense of, oh who the hell knows what to guide us. “If New York is in your heart,” said a friend, ” then that is where you need to go!” But for the longest time after we moved, even we–the Fun Apartment natives–weren’t sure that we had made the right call. After Little’s first birthday–a walk along the high line with balloons–even after champagne, the man of my dreams and I cried a little. “Did we make the right choice?” We asked. After giving up good jobs, an awesome house with lots of space, we weren’t sure we had arrived in Paradise. Instead the Fun Apartment felt more like Easter island. We moved here only to accustom ourselves to ever-increasing, ever-more expensive hardship. “Will he ever have a birthday where we don’t cry ourselves to sleep, in between kicking ourselves?” We wondered.
The long view won out, of course. This month, along with the Little’s birthday, it felt like we actually celebrated our 5th anniversary of Fun Apartment living, rather than just marking it by nodding solemnly at each other. Five years is more than twice as long as we planned to stay, but hey, plans change. We are finding our tribe. And loving it.