Monday, December 04, 2006

Weird North American Birthday Traditions

The night before Havoc's birthday we took everyone out to our favorite Mexican restaurant. It's about two miles from our house, the food is fresh, and the wait staff is friendly and on the ball. And? They know us. "Ola Amigos," they say when we come in. (It's like Cheers, only with enchiladas!) The kids get extra cherries in their Shirley Temples, we get extra cheese on ... everything - and birthdays are great fun. The birthday boy got to wear the charro hat and have a sopapilla with crazy amounts of chocolate and honey and cherries and whip cream on it. The staff all came over and sang Happy Birthday in Spanish and called Havoc "Ponchito" or something similar which they said meant "little dude" in Spanish (although I found nothing online that was close or made sense when I got home and tried to look it up) and our favorite waiter (Jesus) smeared whip cream all over Havoc's face. This made Haovc laugh and snort whip cream up his nose - which I think was his favorite part of the whole evening. And that's saying something because we'd just been to karate where he had gotten birthday spankings. (The whole concept of birthday spankings - especially the "one to grow on" part - has always seemed completely bizarre and sadistic to me. The karate studio's version of birthday spankings involves all the kids in class lining up to whack the birthday kid with a fun noodle . I have to say that were I the birthday kid, I would have faked a tummy ache to get out of karate class that night - and probably for a week on either side just to make sure I wasn't in class anywhere near my birthday. I would have planned the whole thing out a year in advance - that's how much I would have hated the whole idea of birthday spankings at the karate studio. But you know what? When I mentioned that maybe we were too busy for karate the night before Havoc's birthday he wailed, "But Mom - it's my birthday! I HAVE to go! I HAVE to! Oh please! We don't have to have a big birthday dinner. I'll eat a sandwich. Or I don't have to eat anything. Please say I can go to karate." Sheesh. Kids these days. Begging for spankings and snorting whip cream - is this normal? Should I worry? Should I make an extra deposit into the future therapy fund?)

And did I mention that Havoc's birthday celebration lasted an entire week? You'd think he was an emperor or something - but no, he's just a kid from a "broken" family. I promise you - that while the term is often used to describe some poor waif's plight - Havoc would argue that it's not always such a bad thing. Due to the fact that Havoc has not only divorced parents but also lots of grandparents, assorted fabulous uncles, etc in the area - the boy has had five separate dessert nights dedicated to him, a new present to open six out of the last seven days, a "game" day at home where everyone played whatever games Havoc wanted, and (finally) an official party which involved friends and more family, an IMAX movie excursion (arranged by one of those aforementioned fabulous uncles), sleeping bags, and video games. I could see how all that attention and especially all those presents and sugar could spoil a kid - but Havoc is so...innocent? gracious? sweet natured? He was excited by all of it; he had hugs for everyone; he said shy but sincere thank you's; and he was ready to invite anyone and everyone to share in his good fortune. "Do you want to play one of my new games?" he'd ask. "Do you want some of my candy/cake/sopapilla?" he'd ask. He was relentlessly inclusive and generous. Oh my heavens he was so much fun to be around!

The night before his birthday, I scooped him up into my lap to tell him how proud of him I was and to give him a big squeeze. His arms and legs dangled everywhere. He's really, truly not a baby any more. With totally normal dismay for a Mama who realizes she has no more babies left, I said, "Havoc, when did you get so grown up?!" He replied, "Tomorrow."
I love that guy!

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