Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Surprise Party

Is there anything a toddler loves more than a surprise? A new toy. . . a game of peek-a-boo. . .

It's not hard to pull off, because toddlers are surprised by everything.

The world is new. And exciting. And they can't wait to live and scream and run and laugh their way through it.

What's the pinnacle of their discovery? Their own birthday party. It's hard not to have a surprise party for a toddler. They wake up from a nap and.. bam. Balloons, cake, pizza, presents. . . . and they never even see it coming. Even if they go shopping with you and pick out the decorations.

We're old, though, and we're jaded. And we can predict repetitive outcomes with relative certainty and we plan accordingly. It's a blessing and curse of adulthood. No, we do not stand in awe of a Dora birthday balloon, but we do not stand in awe of disappointment, either. We pick up. We press on.

So yesterday morning, I stood in the kitchen chopping Harper's favorite fruit and arranging it on a big platter and, quite honestly, allowed myself to stew in a bit of a parent funk.

Later, I swatted bugs and straddled rainy wet shrubbery in my pajamas and flip flops while I suspended colorful paper lanterns in the front yard, and thought, "Harper will think these are cool. . . . if she notices them."

And later still, as I broke a sweat hoisting heavy, baby-transporting objects out of direct view, I melodramatically lamented that my efforts were for naught.

No matter how many paper lanterns I hung or how many Georgetown Cupcakes I purchased, I didn't feel like I was giving Harper what she deserved: a crazy, wild celebration of her second year of life - the life that she lives so fully each day.

Instead, we'd have a small party. I wasn't expecting more than 5 or 6 people - but that's accepted and I'm thankful for it because we live in an area with no family and only a small group of close-knit friends (and dear, dear friends they are  - some of whom were even on call the night before. That means they didn't go to bed and, instead, elected to attend a 2 year old's birthday party. Saintly. Saintly, I tell you.).

Nevertheless, I was melancholy - because I couldn't give Harper more. Excitement, friends her own age, bells & whistles. . .

I was nearly ready to welcome our loyal & dear guests when I got a text message from my friend Tiffany. She lives in North Carolina and has two babies of her own - one is Harper's age and one is but a scant four months old. Both she and her husband work long hours each week and deal with commutes that rival the schlepping Washingtonian. I think if I were Tiffany or Linwood, I wouldn't leave the house on Saturday or Sunday. And not even look at the car. I would.. rest.

So when I opened the text, expecting a picture of her latest fingernail polish - b/c that's sorta our thing - and I saw this, I giggled:

"See you soon!" it read.

Ever the eloquent lady, my response? "" b/c as much as we chat about it - how we wish we lived closer to each other. . . and for Harper and Danica to have each other for buddies. . . and as shamelessly as I chided my lack of ability to cultivate toddler 'friends' for Harper's party, I knew there was, unfortunately, no way they could ever actually come to the party.

6 hours. With babies. Stopping every two hours to feed a baby. Stopping to change diapers. Stopping to let their toddler run around. I'd rather take a beating.

"Nice Google image," I thought to myself. "If only."

 So I picked up, I pressed on, and I made a decorative bowl out of half of a watermelon.

But about 15 minutes later, Tiffany and Linwood and Danica and Emerson pulled into our driveway.

I am stunned, I am overwhelmed, I am in awe. I will never ever forget what it feels like to be so genuinely surprised  - watching something happen that my adult brain never thought possible.

I am eternally grateful and shocked by the sheer fortitude it took to navigate the country's third worst traffic on Friday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. with two children under the age of two.

I love you.

Thank you for making me as happy as a toddler on her birthday and for making me do the uncontrollable ugly cry like a toddler, also (but in a good way).


  1. We loved being there!! Harper's 8.5 hour birthday party was totally worth all the other hooplah! And so was the surprise cry on your face! Should've know that's what happens when you surprise a woman with child.

  2. Those are the best surprises in the world - what a great friend!!! Happy birthday, Harper!

  3. How sweet.... I'm wiping tears!!! So sweet of Tiffany!! That's what great friends are for!!!!