Pure Guesswork: How the Party Train Crashes
Milo just had his first birthday, and pardon my bragging, but the boy already has skills. He’s excellent at putting his arms into sleeves. He loves to read and eat books. He’s an accomplished flirt, and he enjoys a Bruce Springsteen tune.
Even if he did none of this, he’d still deserve a party, and that’s exactly what he got.
It did not go well. We weren’t overreaching going into it. Except for wanting a decent picture of him covered in icing, expectations were kept in check with a simple menu of pizza, a few presents, five adults and a 4 p.m. start time.
Yes, 4 p.m. Cue the disaster that would follow.
I don’t know what Jenny and I were thinking except that we weren’t thinking. We were birthday party rookies, but we still knew a few essential truths about our son – one being that from 1 to 3 p.m., he is the most amazing creature on the planet. After that, it’s a slow deterioration if he doesn’t get a nap.
The start time was already a gamble. Jenny and I didn’t help matters by arriving 45 minutes late to my mother-in-law’s. Still, Milo wasn’t bad at the beginning. He knew and loved all the players, one of whom was my mother, an intelligent and capable woman for whom a simple enough camera has yet to be made.
“Milo, Milo, Milo, Milo, over here. Milo, Milo. Just one more smile. Milo, Milo. Look at me. Miiiiii-lo. My screen is dark. How do I get it to be not dark? Milo, Milo, Milo. I want to zoom in? Oh, I did it – oh shoot, that’s not it. Milo, Milo, Milo. Is this on the video camera? I don’t want the video camera. How did I do that? Milo, Milo, Milo . . .”
By the time he was expected to unwrap presents, all he could do was stare at the paper he should have been turning into confetti. When dessert came out, he was giggling at random points, which I’ve learned is not a good sign. The singing started. The noise increased. He was beginning to whine. The crying started and became progressively louder; it was Milo’s only way of saying, “Folks, why is no one picking up on my signals?” His arms went up in the air and his fists started making crumbs. This is not how Jenny and I wanted him to perceive cake.
We got him out of there around 6:45 p.m., and he fell asleep in the car. Once home, Jenny and I did a post-mortem. The conclusion: No one else knows Milo better than us, and we didn’t do our job of protecting him and maximizing his chance for success.
The next day, I bought a mini chocolate cake and a #1 candle, and we had a private party. Milo didn’t shudder at any of it. A couple of the pictures look good.
Steve Calechman is a freelance writer in Salem.