30 September 2013

Celebrating our four-year-old

I was surprised how interested you were in my post about our one-year-old's birthday so have decided maybe it is relevant to share a bit about how we celebrated Eva turning four this month.

This was a much anticipated birthday for our girl - but not because she wanted presents or even a party. No, the most important thing was that she moved up the pre-schooler hierarchy from 'Three And A Half' to 'Four'. It has been made clear to me by the one who knows best that such a transition is a very important matter. 

Rather than a 'party', with all the associated expectations and activities, we invited Eva's three best friends to join us for half a day playing at Landsdale Farm. Eva had been there not so long ago and wanted to share this favourite place with her friends. We are fortunate that we avoided socially awkward choices about excluding others, as none of these closest friends are from the big kindy friendship group. 

We talked it up as 'a play to celebrate Eva's birthday' rather than a 'birthday party' and insisted gifts were unnecessary, but all three guests still brought gifts. 

However, these friends know us well and no-one went silly with gifts. At least two of the three guests had been allowed to (and wanted to) choose their gifts themselves, which resulted in gifts that were exactly what a four-year-old wanted - as chosen by a four-year-old and a three-and-a-half-year-old - even if not quite exactly what their parents had in mind. I loved that the kids were encouraged to be involved in choosing.

Gifts are tricky. There was not one gift Eva was given, from friends or family, that was not very appreciated, thoughtfully chosen and lovingly given; not one that I would want to return or am not thankful for. And yet the net outcome is that a whole lot more stuff has come to dwell at our place. For next time I am considering ways to do a 'give away' in preparation for any time of receiving. Still working on that.

Rather than 'party food' we took what we would ordinarily take for a picnic outing, and ate it out of the packets or off our laps rather than from fancy single-use disposable 'party wear'.

All the children had a blast, even (especially?!) in the rain. 


You would have been forgiven for thinking the main event was not the farm, though, but the half-hour drive in our car with all the children in the back. 

Yes, this is why we bought a seven-seater. We could nearly have driven them the length of the freeway and back and considered the birthday well celebrated without even getting out of the vehicle!

On her actual birthday we had hidden the gifts we bought for her around our room, wrapped in pretty fabric as described at Christmas. Eva loved hunting them out - hide and seek is one of her most favourite games at present.

Our six gifts were: two picture books, a set of wooden alphabet magnets, a train tunnel (her particular request), heart-shaped post-it notes, and a small plastic car & horse trailer & horse. I think I bought too many gifts (although a $4 train tunnel and a $2 pad of post-it notes, though received and used with much glee, are not exactly exorbitant). I am not a great success at living smaller, just one person having a go, and the lovely things on offer for children easily get me in. This time around I didn't check how sustainably the timber for the toys was produced, and the horse trailer etc I confess was a complete impulse buy of unnecessary plastic on a day Eva had enjoyed driving behind a horse in traffic. However, it was at least bought from our lovely local independent toy store rather than some bulk-rubbish warehouse store.

Breakfast was her choice: dippy eggs on this occasion, although she has many breakfast favourites and Tyson could have been up for a trickier cook than that!

We gathered with Tyson's family for an afternoon tea picnic at Eva's favourite local play area, Tomato Lake, which involved much bolting around with cousins and eating food brought by all to share. Cake by Grandma again - she's very good at that. Eva had asked for a red snail cake.


Of course if you're going to dress in a frilly pink outfit, you need to do a bit of gardening too...

The next day we went to the zoo with her my-side cousin. We often go to the zoo, as we have season passes, so that wasn't a particular treat in itself, but we only go on the carousel for special occasions. Because it was Eva's birthday we let the girls have two rides. That's very near to paradise.

Her kindy, church and Wiggly Woo all sang happy birthday and gave her a small something (sticker, chocolate, pencil). Her Children's Church leader cut watermelon into a cake shape, stuck in candles, and made it a birthday morning tea - especially thoughtful, as Eva doesn't really eat cake. We bought a bag of chocolate frogs and gave them out at kindy. Tyson made sure his rostered day for parent help at kindy was in the birthday week. One evening in the week after her birthday we went out to dinner as a family at a local restaurant we often frequent, where Eva likes to order and devour an enormous chicken parmigiana, and made note to her that it was another part of remembering her birthday. 

And perhaps most importantly I tried very hard to make her birthday and days around it days of 'yes'. So often when at home with two small children I find myself saying 'no' all day. Now and then I set myself a day of 'yes' - where unless it is dangerous, expensive or impossible I do my level best to say 'yes' to what Eva suggests, even if it is not the most convenient choice or not the one that I personally would enjoy most. I never tell her it is a 'yes' day, I just do it, and usually the result is a happy day all around. Why don't I do it every day? (Because I am too often tired and grumpy and sometimes things do need to get done... before next Christmas...)

Happy birthday to our precious girl. We love you lots and can't believe you are four already.

The usual 'time/ cost/ impact' section that would go here doesn't make a lot of sense for this one. The impact is as per what I wrote about birthdays in July but it is intangible and impossible to quantify. The whole birthday cost us about $100 I think, including $6 farm entries for four kids and $4.50 bag of chocolates for kindy kids, but I didn't keep track closely so that may not be entirely accurate. Dinner at the restaurant is not in that amount - can't remember how much that was.

Thanks parents for allowing me to include photos of your lovely children on my blog.