My eldest turned five years old or, as he put it with fingers outspread, he made it to a whole hand. To celebrate, we threw him a party. I chose his favorite park as the locale and reserved the gazebo in case of rain. It didn't rain, as it happens, because the clouds were too cold to cry. There was a cold snap on the day of the party that drove the temperature down to a balmy 41 degrees. What could I do? I dressed Paolo in three layers of clothing and away we went. I'm not sure what was more disheartening: noticing tiny snow flurries as we got out of the car or trying to prepare Paolo for the likelihood that none of his friends were going to show up.
So we laid the table with cake and cookies, hung the piñata, and lined up the thermoses of hot chocolate. And then a miracle happened. People started showing up. I greeted each new arrival with, "Thank you so much for coming. Are you crazy? It's freezing out here!" I decided that was preferable to what I really felt like doing each time I saw a little person toting a present down the hill from the parking lot - grabbing the parent in a bear hug, burying my head in his/her neck and whispering, "thank you for making my little boy happy." That might have been weird, no?
As kids get older, parents can do less and less to protect them from disappointment. I'm learning that I have to rely on the kindness of others sometimes. Whether it's a patient T-ball coach, an inspiring teacher, or a parent who brings her child to the park on a freezing day in April, we all have a hand in producing happy childhoods. I know I'll think twice now before I throw away another of Paolo's classmate's birthday party invitations. It's a pretty big deal when your kid makes it to a whole hand, and he should get to walk away from it with good memories. And speaking of Paolo's whole hand, it's marvelous how comfortably my whole heart fits in its palm.