Saturday, February 16, 2008

U's Fourth Birthday

Today is Ulysses's fourth birthday. He's not awake yet. We still are deciding how to present the whole birthday situation to him. I've been thinking about it nonstop for over a month, but I hestitated to say, "Ulysses, your birthday is coming in a month!" because I didn't want him to respond, as I've heard tots do, ten minutes later with "Is it my birthday yet? Has it been a month? Where's my cake? Where's the party? Wah!"

I thought we might tell him it's his birthday when he wakes up and comes stumping half-asleep from the bedroom. He's often super chipper at that time, but it's somewhat deceptive. It's a fragile moment, that newly awakened conscious state. Any bit of information or happening that's out of the ordinary -- good, bad or neutral -- can knock him out of his happy mood, and then the reparations can be extensive. A few days ago he awoke sunny and bouncy, seemingly completely awake. But a few minutes after our happy morning greetings the horn sound on his racing game didn't work. He was instantly inconsolable, and he panicked at the sight of our touching the computer to fix it. I had to hold him back physically while Don rebooted the computer and relaunched the program -- the only way out of the situation was straight through. U couldn't bring himself to try the game again until later in the morning. It was all too devastating, evidently.

Had the horn malfunction happened a half hour later, the whole scenario would have been different. He would have simply called to us or come to us: "Mama, Tata, horn not working, race je broken! Hix it?" ("Je" is Serbian for "is"; he uses Serbian for some parts of speech. "Hix" is "fix.") We would have fixed it quickly and been heroes, and the pleasant morning would have continued. Sigh.

So I thought we'd break the birthday news a little past that fragility window. But when? How soon, how late? Hey, Ulysses, by the way ... it's your birthday today! Huh? Where did that come from?

Don said we should tell him at the party this afternoon, when people start coming over. He said, "It'll be a 'Surprise, it's your birthday' party!" I couldn't figure out whether he was joking or not.

Meantime, I noticed a couple of days ago that he'd dug out and has been keeping close at hand a certain, tiny, board book that he hasn't read for a couple of years. I don't even know where he found it. It's called "The Birthday." It's all about a fox having a birthday party and all his little animal friends preparing a cake and so forth. The last time he read it was just around his second birthday. He carried it around with him for days, paging through it over and over, up through his birthday. That was the last I remember seeing him handle it.

He's got to know more about stuff than I've been giving him credit for.

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