This fall, we had our oldest’s 4th birthday party. We have always been in the camp of small family get-togethers to celebrate birthdays. It was a philosophy passed down from my mother and embraced by my husband who does not think birthdays are a big deal.
But our soon-to-be 4 year old knew birthdays were a big deal. And I wanted him to know his was a big deal too.
Four weeks before his birthday, we set a plan for an outdoor party. We made a list. We assigned ownership, timelines and priorities. Nearly everyday, we looked at the list and did something.
Several days before the party, rain was forecast. I remained optimistic. In Kentucky, at that time of year, storms pop up and are gone after 30 minutes. Worst case, we would spend a little time inside – the rest outside.
We transformed the backyard into a kids’ wonderland. Two bounce houses, soccer goal and soccer balls, baseball tee plus squishy baseballs, large colorful waffle blocks, cozy coupes, sidewalk chalk and bubbles. We did not forget about the parents. Besides juice boxes, we had adult beverages from iced tea to wine. We were ready.
What we were not ready for was an unflinching storm. One that brought heavy rain, loud thunder and relentless lightning that lasted from 4-6. The entire amount of time on the birthday invitation.
In my optimism (or stubbornness), I kept everything set-up as planned, thinking the storm would pass. It did not pass. Our guests graciously spent two hours in our low-ceiling, slightly damp, basement.
As I worried and toiled, 11 of the guests did not. Those 11 were ages 2-7. In a brief reprieve from the heavy rain they bounced, shrieked and giggled in soaking wet bounce houses. They jumped in puddles and howled with laughter as they hid under a table when God Bowled (my father’s euphemism for thunder rolling).
The next am, I kicked myself for how I handled things. I made our guests huddle in our dark stinky basement instead of shifting the events upstairs to a “proper” party setting. I declared the party a fail because the party I envisioned did not come to fruition.
Later that day my best friend from law school called to wish the newly minted 4 year old a Happy Birthday. He excitedly told her every detail of his party.
When he went to bed that night he looked me straight in the eye, his smile grew and in his little boy voice he said, “It was a great party, mommy.”
I had been looking at the wrong metric.