The Grape turns four soon. Yesterday I asked what he'd like for his birthday.
He answered without hesitation. "Everything I don't already have."
Me: We're going to need to scale that way down. What's one thing you'd like for a birthday present?
Grape (face scrunches with intense concentration): I want a blimp.
Me: Okay. (Silently smug that for once I'll have time to track down the desired toy, even if our local toy store doesn't have it.)
Grape: A real one. Not a toy one. Those are silly.
Me: You can't have a real blimp. They're way too expensive. Think of something else.
Grape: A blimp is a good present for my birthday. (He nods as he tells me this, as if he's picked up on the negotiating tactic of nodding to stir subconscious agreement in the adverse party.)
I related the gift conversation to my mother, who's been asking for weeks what her grandson might like for a fourth birthday present. She said to tell the Grape that only corporations have blimps.
A few hours later, when the Grape renewed his request for a real blimp, I relayed this nugget, only to have the Grape say, without missing a beat, "I want a corporation."
Me: [Face palm.] You are not getting a corporation. How about a bicycle?
Gift selection isn't the only birthday minefield. The Grape has wised up to the concept of big birthday parties. I suspect this is the absolute last year I'll get away with having a family party and/or a few family friends over for ice cream cake.
The Grape knows that's the plan, but today, at birthday minus two weeks, this flies out of his mouth: "After the party with the ice cream cake, we can have another party for my whole class."
Apparently he sees no reason why his birthday shouldn't expand into a multi-day event, not unlike a wedding or the Olympic Games.
I wrote about children's birthday parties earlier this year, and my sentiments on them haven't evolved much. I'm still firmly in the they basically suck camp.
I'm also resistant to shelling out many hundreds of dollars to rent one of those My Gym places. Though I admit they do a great job. They keep the kids jumping up and down and shrieking in delight, they feed everyone, they let the parents bring in adult beverages, and most importantly, they clean up everything. I'm also totally behind the eight ball, since they book parties months in advance.
If the day comes when I need to host the whole class, plus all their assorted siblings, it would be nice to do so in a space designed to accommodate twenty plus marauding maniacs jacked up on sugar.
It doesn't help my cause this year that we just attended one of those My Gym parties for a classmate last week. The party had a theme: Zebras and Orcas. Cute, right? I pictured plates and cups and balloons featuring the birthday boy's favorite animals.
Then I re-read the evite. The Grape's friend wanted his friends to dress up as zebras or orcas for the party.
I felt a rush of panic, because I am not crafty.
And a little betrayed, because this kid's mom seemed so delightful, so normal, so down to earth. Yet she expected me to spend a day making a papier mache zebra head that the Grape would probably refuse to wear anyway?
And I had to round up all the supplies in the middle of an epic heat wave?
All I could think (beyond the fact that I would have never in a million years pegged this mom as a glue gun wielding sadist) was that there's something reminiscent of The Godfather in any class of disembodied equine head.
And is The Godfather really appropriate for four year olds?
Not much later I felt like a weenie, for rushing to judgment. A follow up email arrived, explaining that they intended their costume directive extremely loosely, i.e. the kids could wear stripes, or black and white clothes, if they wanted.
I did one of those whole body exhales. The classmate's mom was indeed the lovely person I'd assumed she was all along. I was the goober who presumed the worst. And I have to say, their zebra and orca cake was very cool.
That cake was so cool that the Grape asked this morning if he could have one just like it, you know, Mamma, when we have the party at My Gym, for my class.
"After my other party, Mamma," he added, his voice dripping buttercream sweetness, as if he knew he was throwing me a bone.