To offset the awkwardness of only having a kid or two show up at Jake’s birthday party, and partly because they occur so close together, we’ve been having a triple birthday party in June for the last 6 years or so. It started when I turned 30. Liv was 5, and Jake was 7. Once you gather a couple of dozen people, it’s not so obvious who’s here for whom. Everybody’s here for everybody, and things work out OK.
Last year was the first time Jake noticed that he only got a few presents compared to his sister. Now, we all know that birthdays aren’t JUST about presents, but when you’re 10, they’re a pretty big deal.
This year, we sent out 10 invitations per kid. We had a few families with a brother/sister combo, and even a pair of sisters spread out over the two year age range. At the end of the day, there were three kids there solely for Jake, and about a dozen for Liv, with a few serving double-duty. Don’t get me wrong, we’re eternally grateful to those kids who did come to “Jake’s” party.
The idea was to have a field day. We’d break up into random teams, and play games that you didn’t have to be “older” to win. We had a sack race, a fire bucket relay, the old ‘carry the marshmallow on the spoon you hold in your teeth’ classic, the water balloon toss, and our new family favorite – clothespin tag. We set up a prize table, and we were off!
We had about twenty people, kids with a few adults, participating in everything. Jake didn’t play any of the games. He spent some, but not all, of his time inside where it was quiet. After we had finished with the sack race and had moved on to the bucket relay, Jake ventured over like a shy mouse and played with one of the sacks. It was cute and heartbreaking at the same time.
We had two cakes (his/hers), and no candles. Also, nobody sang Happy Birthday. It’s a rule at our house: nobody sings that song. Jake can’t handle it. He gets mad, stomps around, and basically runs for the hills when that happens. It’s taken us quite a few years to earn that trust from Jake. He’s getting less and less afraid of his own parties this way.
When it comes to presents, we handled ourselves how we always do – informally, and without a lot of fanfare. Liv gets surrounded by her girlfriends as she oohs and ahhs over her new things, and Jake gets surrounded by his parents and grandparents as we ooh and ahh over his few things. If done properly, nobody in either group pays much mind over anybody in the other group.
The party was a success! It was sunny for the first time in years, and there was plenty of laughter to go around. We cleaned up and had a select few come home with us for a sleepover-in-the-tent night. Gabe brought home a friend, Liv brought 3, and Jake nobody. In fact, I couldn’t even get him to sleep in the tent with me and the boys. I slept in the house, too. I wasn’t going to let Jake be out there all night unattended by an adult, but if he didn’t want to go, I wasn’t going to make him. His present was getting to sleep in a quiet room all by himself.
In retrospect, it was a little sad, but then, parties for Jake always are. One of Liv’s friend excitedly exclaimed, “Best party ever!!” during one of the games, so I think to the outside observer, everything went great.
When it was all said and done; mess all picked up, and the house again quiet, Jake made an announcement. He wanted everyone to come to his house on the 27th (his actual birthday) for cake. He wants Meme and Grampy, Nona and Grammie. He wants Clotell and Brock and Aiden and everybody. He named a bunch of family, but no friends. So, we’ve gotten our marching orders.
He wants a little family party just his own.
Next year will be different. Now we know.