Yesterday was an action packed, swashbuckling thriller of an event in our backyard: the boys’ joint birthday party. They are not twins, but their birthdays are eight days apart, and there is no way on this great green Earth that I am throwing two birthday parties in the span of a month. I am fairly certain that this is something for which they will resent me later.
May birthdays are a luxury, what with being able to keep the children outside, preferably in a pen. If no pen is available, one can devise a treasure hunt to distract them. It’s pretty easy to do, and the kids seem to like it. I drew up a treasure map and then tore it into several pieces, each with a clue written on it. These clues were stashed in shoeboxes all around the yard, along with a bit of pirate’s booty (matchbox cars, little green army guys with parachutes, e.g.) The kids raced around finding the boxes marked “The Order of the Dead Hand,” one of which required tree climbing, and then, finally, were led to the ultimate treasure–a box full of candy stowed in the loft of our chicken coop. This was poured out from above onto a canvas dropcloth the kids stretched out to catch their plunder. It was a fine, New Hampshire-country-living take on the piñata, if you ask me.
Anticipating the massive trove of toys the boys would acquire through this double party, we didn’t get them any gifts outside the cake we ordered (I do NOT bake, though Jenny Ouellet of HippieCakes sure does!) and the treasure hunt supplies, as well as a few costume elements to lend a note of authenticity to our pirate garb. And these we acquired at one of our favorite thrift stores, Savers. Despite these measures of Yankee frugality, I was still facing my usual first world guilt at day’s end. I rarely struggle with the typical form of mommy guilt–does this juice have too much sugar? Is two hours (ok, six hours) of tv in one day too much? Is this the right preschool? Are they getting enough culturally enriching experiences? In a global sense, my kids are the most unbelievably overprivileged children imaginable. Through sheer luck, they were born white male citizens of the United States in a middle class household. Well, actually they were born into very nearly the One Percent, but then Christophe took this non-profit job…anyway, they have it all. They truly do. They are safe, they are warm in the winter, they have clothes with superheroes on them, and shoes that fit, and they get to go to school for free, and that school is only a mile away, and they are white, and they are boys. I don’t ever want them to feel guilty about what they have, or feel embarrassed by it. But I want them to grow up knowing that all those things they got by chance and by luck should never be confused with achievement. That, they’ll need to do themselves, with gratitude for what was given. Including a few gold doubloons in their pockets.