Part of my inability to believe Damien has already had three birthdays stems from just how little he feels to me. By this age Kendan appeared to be such a big boy! He was potty trained well before his third birthday and Damien isn't even close. We have not even begun the process. He's just so little! I cannot imagine my tiny baby boy learning to use the real bathroom. And his size alone. Kendan was only slightly bigger at this milestone than Damien is now, but it's enough to convince me that Damien's not the age his birth certificate claims he is. By three, I couldn't believe Kendan hadn't already started preschool. He was more than ready and felt so grown up. Now Damien is registered to begin in August, the same timeline as his big brother's first school experience, and it feels too soon. That little guy will be in school soon? How? Isn't he just a baby? I realize Kendan being my first is partially to blame for my feeling Damien is still so little. The presence of a little brother, by nature, made Kendan the big brother. And he'll always feel bigger. With as fast as these childhood years careen by, it's a blessing to be able to view Damien as younger than he is. Even if only for a little while. Even if the universe says, "No. He's big now." My heart will disagree. And I'm so lucky for that.
Aside from being shocked about Damien's birthday, I mostly just felt so much joy! I was happy. Happy to make the day all about him. Anything he wanted, I wanted him to experience it. Happy to make him his favorite meals. Happy to play whatever he wanted to play. Decorate his cupcakes however he envisioned they should be. And to even let him help frost and sprinkle them! Damien chose pink frosted cupcakes this year. He pointed to a box of Funfetti cake and specifically to the pink frosting pictured on the box. "I want pink cupcakes for my birthday!" My fearless, rough, all-boy, three year old wanted pink. And, darnit, he was going to get it! Kendan is already spoiled by gender differences and supposed roles. But, despite big brother's insistence that pink is for girls, we frosted every little individually wrapped pillow of cake with bright pink. Damien and Kendan then meticulously pressed little sprinkles, one by one, into the pink peaks of frosting.
Damien's favorite activity is going to the movie theater and eating popcorn. I've never seen anyone consume more popcorn than my child does during a two hour feature film. Popped kernel by kernel, eyes never leaving the screen, until I'm sure he'll explode. We have found that playing movie theater at home with the boys is a close second favorite pastime for Damien. The darkened, roped off living room provides its own special hint of magic. They're not just settling in for a movie at home, they're going to a movie and just happen to be at home. We pop popcorn and serve it in very official containers and have the boys use quarters from their piggy banks to purchase homemade tickets and concessions. For Damien's birthday, we spruced the whole concept up by having the boys' friends, Brooks and Hank, over for the ultimate at-home movie theater experience. After cupcakes, singing, and ripping through the present our friends brought, the boys lined up outside the "theater" to "buy" candy and popcorn and to see Muppets: Treasure Island. They were all wide-eyed and smiles when we greeted them and made official gestures like removing and replacing the rope as they each entered the living room lit only by the TV screen.
Once the floor was sufficiently covered in smashed popcorn and there were more kids running around than butts on the couch, we called it a night. Time for the sleepover portion of the birthday! Four boys, one room, a million giggles, and countless appearances from mom and dad to tell them to go to sleep... They finally did. Peace and quiet. I peeked in on them, covered them up, kissed foreheads, saving my birthday boy for last. I crawled on the floor into the tent he was in and brushed his curls off his forehead. The baby who had told anyone willing to listen over the last week that he was turning three. First looking at his fingers to concentrate and then holding the correct digits up. Three. "My birfday!" He completely understood this year. This day was special. And all his. It truly filled me up. I was so happy. Our baby boy had a wonderful birthday. It wasn't an elaborately planned birthday. There was no theme. No official invites. No goody bags made up to take home. The only actual decoration was the same Happy Birthday banner I hang every year on the mantle above the presents. The day was simply all about D. Exactly what he wanted and how he wanted it. He turned three with presents and sugar and fun and friends and family and love all around him.
The following day the house woke up a mess. As sunlight filled the rooms through slatted blinds, every piece to the game Marble Run littered the dining room floor. Two boxes of Legos sprawled the landscape of the living room. The basket of toys kept in there was overturned to showcase all of its belongings. The bits of popcorn amongst the toys I didn't get vacuumed up once the party-goers had gone to sleep still sprinkled the carpet. The new birthday presents were still under the birthday banner in the front room, only not pristinely wrapped anymore. Some of the contents of their boxes flung clear across the room by four excited boys. I told myself all day to clean it up as I stepped on things that made me howl in pain. But is there ever a better excuse to have the house in such disarray? We celebrated a birthday boy and that was the result. It felt appropriate to just be thankful for a happy mess than to worry about tidying up. So that's just what I did. Now I just need to pay attention when Damien holds one hand up with three fingers on it to show me how old he is. I think I may be the only person who doesn't believe him. My baby boy.
Everything you do and say feels so unique. Your father and I get so much amusement and joy out of your simple gestures or tone of voice just because you're you! Even when you're upset you make us laugh. Balling up your tiny fists, pounding them on the table, and sticking your bottom lip out as far as it will go. Your temper is red hot and your sweet side is as pink as the cupcakes you insisted on. You have never stopped being a bubble of energy and easy to please. I pray I always remember to be grateful for you, just as you are, and for all time we get with you because you are such a wonderful little guy.
I love you more than you'll ever know.