On reflection, however, whilst many of the elements remained the same (same small person, same family members, same excess of cake), this was a very different affair to the birthday we celebrated a year ago. Inevitably this will be the case as the years go on - changes will happen to the mechanics of the day even though the basic equation remains the same. But for me it was particularly marked this year as, being only his second birthday, I felt pretty damn emotional when observing the difference between my baby a year ago, and my "baby" today.
So here are my top five observations of a two year old's birthday - I am sure there are many more, but for me these encapsulate the last 72 hours...
1) dawn of the batteries
Last year just about the only element of the celebrations that required batteries was the camera. This year? A different story altogether. We joined the brotherhood of battery obsessed parents in the weeks leading up to the big day, with daily conversations which included some or all of the following questions:
- "does it take batteries?"
- "how many batteries does it take?"
- "do we have enough batteries?"
- "where did you put the batteries?"
Of course, when the day arrived, we didn't have enough batteries, and no one knew where the batteries we did have were. It was a Sunday. The shops shut in an hour. A wiling Uncle was dispatched to the Co-Op. Calm was restored.
2) shit gets eaten - mainly by the small people
Last year I did a full on buffet. There was cheese and biscuits. Little sandwiches and appropriately sized crudite for the small people. Cake of all varieties. We were eating it for a week. This year I scaled back (there were fewer people, and anyway, I didn't relish the thought of another week of picking at stale party food every time I opened the fridge). However it would appear that this year, Littly received the party food memo. He got stuck in from the get-go. He was tucking in to a plate of assorted cakes and crisps before people had even managed to say hello, and he continued to graze as the afternoon went on. As soon as his plate was empty he demanded more. It's a wonder that his overall sugar consumption didn't render him sleepless for a week.
3) presents have real meaning
It's always nice to believe that the present you have bought someone is absolutely, without question, what they have always wanted and will undoubtedly change their life. Adults do a pretty good job of faking this kind of excitement at Christmas and on birthdays. One year olds do not. Genuinely, they show not a hint of emotion for the most part as you "help" them unwrap yet another board book. Two year olds, however, are a different story. There was "oohing" and "aahhhing" with every rip of wrapping paper. Hand clapping accompanied every present. This was pure, genuine delight. A toy vacuum cleaner was met with such unbridled joy I couldn't help but wonder how I might have reacted had I been presented with a similar present for my birthday.
4) he can say the word!!!
The first time I heard "burday, mine" in response to "Who's birthday is it today?" was perhaps the highlight of my day. A small, but priceless addition to the list.
5) enjoying the aftermath
When everyone had gone, the candles had been blown out and every last present opened, Littly continued to enjoy the riches of his special day. He PLAYED QUIETLY with the spoils of his day quite happily. Tidying the kitchen the following morning, I looked across at him busying himself with his new toys and wondered for the umpteenth time where that year has gone.