My baby Joseph is now four years old! It is so hard to believe. I have already put away clothes he just received at Christmas because he’s grown too tall and lanky for them. His babyhood is fading behind him, but what a beautiful year this will be! Joseph is now so expressive and passionate, and wants very much to be heard and taken so very seriously: “Mommy, wait a minute! I have something to tell you!” It is fascinating and rewarding to watch the frustration of toddler tantrums melt away in place of discussions about our feelings, and what actions we can take for more desirable results (but more on that later).
My son is a birthday party fanatic, and in my own excitement on his behalf, I invited Joseph’s entire preschool class, his little neighbors, his peer-group cousins, his best church buddy, and his friends from San Diego and Palm Springs for an Ocean Conservation Birthday Party. The choice of theme came from many sources: 1.) we had the amazing opportunity to see Birdsong and the Eco-Wonders perform their unique and magical music about ocean ecology, recycling and maintaing our beaches and oceans; 2.) Birthday parties can easily become a paper-waste nightmare, with decorations, streamers, hats, paper plates and the rest of it; #.) Joseph has the rest of his life to dream up a theme or location for his birthday–at 4, I still have some input, right? 4.) I really wanted to present our friends with something truly enchanted and meaningful. Little eyes and ears need enchantment! (As a bonus, this Spring, Joseph’s preschool class is learning about ocean creatures!)
With help from all the mommies and daddies, we played with bubbles, ate a big lunch, danced and used our playhouse and slide, and it was as fun and silly and high-energy as I’d hoped. The most wonderful part was having the incredible Birdsong come to Joseph’s party and sing her fun, educational songs for the children. Her lyrics and gorgeous imagery flashed on the TV while she sang, and the children were so taken with her, they jumped right up and danced and played and shook maracas, and pretended they were octopuses, dolphins and sharks. Moms and Dads commented to me that they were learning just as much as the kids. Birdsong kindly gave Joseph his very own shark puppet as a birthday gift, and we have been listening to her CD, nonstop, since the party. At 21 months, even little Noah is now singing lyrics about how dolphins echo-locate. The music is simply wonderful, and since nearly everyone at the party lives within a few miles of the California coastline, Birdsong‘s message of caring for the beach and our ocean friends is especially powerful. The next day, Joseph asked if she could come and do the party all over again.
While my intentions were entirely green, I’ll admit it was tough to locate recyclable plates—and when I did, there was a stiff pricetag. I compromised by getting a little over half of what I needed, and offered guests a choice: reusable plastic or paper plates and a recycling bin; the same went for cutlery. (Partial environmental friendliness is better than none.) Our decorations were fish and boats and turtles and walruses, all created by my sons! We love to make all kinds of wonderful arts and crafts, so we just did what we always do, but focused on our ocean theme. Lastly, with so many kids, it was important to create a game we could all take part in. I sponge-painted a giant octopus and many (maaaannnny) tentacles, and we all played pin-the-tentacle-on-the-octopus (especially fun, since Birdsong has a very special song about Oxford the Octopus!) After placing a tentacle, each party guest got to choose a little figurine of a water creature as a prize.
Mid-way through the party, my son came up and slid his arm around my waist and whispered, “this is a great party, mom.” We smiled at each other. So this is what four years old looks like? Absolutely brilliant.