Fourth Birthday

A child’s fourth birthday must be the best one. At least I can’t imagine that Elena’s excitement about and appreciation of any future birthday could ever be greater than it was for this one. We may very well try harder to seek out fun activities, throw nice parties, and give thoughtful presents, but I fear that we’ll be chasing diminishing returns from here on out, because she was just that into this birthday. As evidence, consider this video of what happened when Elena excused herself briefly from dinner to visit the restroom.

Preparation for the birthday started several days in advance, when Jenny started talking to Elena about what kind of cake she wanted. Elena said she wanted a ‘princess’ cake, but she would change her mind about the flavor and frosting colors every time we asked her. In the end, they went to the grocery store and Jenny let Elena pick out what she wanted from the party supply and cake decorating sections of the store, which was a treat in and of itself because those areas are always so appealing, but we only rarely buy things there. Elena remained engaged in the making, decorating, and especially eating of the cake.

Our main day for festivities was Saturday, one day before the actual birthday. First thing in the morning, Elena and I put up decorations while Jenny decorated the cake. Jenny was very happy with how her frosting flowers turned out; it’s been a while since she last made them. After that Gran Ann joined Elena and I at the municipal aquatic center. It was our first time there, and although I would like Elena to be more daring in the water, we still had a lot of fun. Our favorite part was the whirlpool. We went straight from the pool to lunch at Elena’s favorite restaurant, the Chick-Fil-A. We met Jenny’s family there; they had driven in that morning. It was very crowded, but one kind worker took pity on us–she helped us find a seat and took our order as if it was a sit-down restaurant. At the conclusion of lunch, Elena showed how grown up she’s becoming by thinking of a creative way to get us to let her play for a little while.

The party picked up again in the evening when we reconvened for dinner, presents, and cake. There was one more addition to the group, as my father joined us. Jenny prepared some excellent pulled pork to fill tacos, which was what Elena had requested for her birthday dinner. She takes after her mother, who loves tacos so much that she requested them for her birthday every year, even though that was a dinner they had about once a week. Dinner was followed by opening presents, which was when Roman displayed some jealousy. As soon as Elena started to open another present, Roman was all over the previous one, which of course elicited a negative reaction from Elena. We managed the situation as well as we could, distracting him with balloons and whatever else was at hand. He especially liked her new Tinkerbell doll; not surprisingly, she likes that one too. To finish up, we sang “Happy Birthday” and had cake and ice cream, which helped Elena and Roman forget their conflict over the new toys.

I do regret that we didn’t invite any other children Elena’s age, but we just don’t know very many people here. And watching Elena play with her grandparents and then say happy goodbyes to them, I don’t think she could have been any happier.


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