My little one — my big kid — turned five this weekend. It was a big birthday, full of anticipation and surprises, and one that I delighted in. We started the week with a visit from Grandma and Grandpa, much loved, and there was much excitement as we played all day together (matchbox cars! outside! counting and a real! working! cash register!) and topped it off with a surprise trip to Rita’s and chocolate cake after dinner.
We spent the birthday as a family, starting with pancakes and a single present, then play, then a trip to school for pre-K orientation. Widget did REALLY well, dropping into the group as if he had been there always, and playing with his friends from summer, friends from last school year, and friends from his two-year-old class that he remembers only fleetingly. He will do well this year, and I am sure of that.
Lunch out was his choice, and he let Little Brother choose, because it was his turn. Accordingly, we went out for a festive ‘Donalds, which, as Widget says, “Bear always chooses ‘Donalds.” But that’s okay, and we had a great time.
After a nap and quiet time (punctuated by the periodic dropping of marbles), we opened the remaining presents and decided to splurge and go out for dinner too. We were on our way to a favorite dinner when Widget stopped, turned to me, and said,
Mama, I’m five today.
Yes, dear you are.
So, Mama, is today the day we can go to Chuck E Cheese?
And suddenly I remembered winter days, stuck inside in the snow and ice, when the Sprout commercials flashed warm happiness of children playing loudly, promising “the new birthday at Chuck E Cheese!” When we said, yes, that’s a birthday place, and when we promised that yes, when you turn five, we can go to Chuck E Cheese. And then the asking stopped.
After that, he would mention it, in passing, contentedly, saying,
When I’m five, I can go to Chuck E Cheese for my birthday.
And so, we did.
It’s not our thing. We don’t like the flashing lights, the consumerism, the waste. We don’t like the frenzy, the money-centricity, the loud music, and the strobe lights. We’re not fans of the giant rat.
But for Widget, our firstborn, our patient, understanding, empathetic child, who accepts the unacceptable, snuggles with a scarred and tired Mama, and teaches his little brother to be gentle, we went.
We had a good time. On our terms. Together, as a family. We played air hockey and pinball and had our picture taken and rode the rides and climbed in the climbing gym. And Widget happily danced in front of the pretend TV screen, taking turns with kids he’d just met, and telling brother all about it.
We left, exhausted but happy, and Widget looked up at me in the parking lot and said, Mama, I can’t wait until my sixth birthday to come back.
Such sweet innocence. I doubt we’ll wait that long.