This week is always a tough one for me: Father’s Day, Adam’s birthday, and our wedding anniversary, all in one fell, evil swoop. I usually respond by retreating. Who needs a good gift when you can offer a fantastic apology? Aren’t all these holidays really about disappointment anyway? Isn’t that part of the FUN? But this year, the day before Adam’s birthday, I got inspired. “Harper, tomorrow is Daddy’s birthday. What makes a happy birthday?”
“Cupcake,” Harper answered without missing a beat. “Balloons.”
This kid knows what’s what. I had a revelation: whenever you get that post-birthday sense that your birthday wasn’t birthday-y enough, it’s probably because it lacked the kid-birthday-party trappings that you subconsciously expect. So the day before Adam’s birthday we set out with our shopping cart, I mean double stroller, and trolled the neighborhood for birthday trappings. Streamers, check. Balloons, check. Helium balloons, check. Just what every 31-year-old man wants: a big, shiny, Elmo balloon.
At home we baked Adam’s requisite birthday treat, his grandmother’s famous recipe, a rich chocolately situation known as wacky cake. (I’ve made this cake every year we’ve been together and let me just say that June birthdays are completely stupid. Nothing is less refreshing than baking a frigging cake on an 80-degree summer’s day. I recommend that people think about this when family-planning.) Am I allowed to reveal the wacky cake recipe? I don’t know. I will tell you this much: when baking with a toddler, do by all means search for an eggless recipe like this one, which calls for oil and white vinegar but no eggs. Harper was ecstatic to be allowed to lick the spoon. After ingesting about a cup of batter she sighed and said, “I don’t think I like chocolate.” Later on she decorated it with some Haribo gummy berries, a bit of wacky cake heresy (it is generally dressed only in a slinky layer of shiny dark icing) that I felt was necessary given her love for accessories.
Harper was in a kind of a happy haze all day, asking every hour or so, “Daddy’s home yet?” We spoke to him on the phone (to tell him that Alton had rolled over!) and she blurted out, “Ollie rolled and we made a cake!” When he finally got home instead of yelling “Surprise!” like I’d coached her, she leapt around showing him the balloons and pointing to the wrapped packages on the table — “And we got shirts! And…”
Realistically, it was the most fun for her. But I think Adam liked it too. If not, well, I also can offer him the best birthday present of all: apologetic excuses.