Although Kade turned nine earlier in the week, we celebrated his birthday with a party today at a nearby park. It was a complete blessing; we not only had a number of our local friends join us, but six of our great friends even drove up from San Diego to celebrate with is. It was wonderful.
Our birthday celebrations have undergone many changes over the years as the kids have altered their needs and preferences. Once upon a time, we held a very orderly "play-eat-play-sing-cake-presents-favors" kind of party, but we found that we operate much better with a lot less formal structure and a lot more "whatever." Only one tradition has held firm. On the day Kade was born, as Ginger and I were sitting with him amazed at our home birth experience and this new little dude in front of us, our midwives prepared a small meal for us and placed a beautiful rainbow candle on top to commemorate the birth. Since then, that has been the only birthday candle we have ever used, and it hasn't missed a celebration in nine years. Each year, we light the candle, put it on top of whatever cake-like snack we had, and sing "Happy Birthday."
This year, Kade said "no" to singing "Happy Birthday", and instead asked me - the night before the party - to learn how to play Don McLean's "American Pie" on the guitar so we could all sing that instead.
Talk about a tipping point. With all of the moves we've made, the changes we've undergone, and the traditions that we have jettisoned, my strong preference would have been to have one thing - just one - to hang onto.
But Kade was resolute; it was "yes" to "American Pie", "no" to "Happy Birthday", and that was that. So I learned it, prepared some lyrics sheets and found the music on-line, and put it all together. We did a short run-through in the afternoon, and then all 20 of us sang it out loud before we cut the cake. And we didn't suck.
As we were loading up to come home, I thought about how imperfectly joyful it had been. It wasn't typical, of course, but it was a thorough, quirky blast that just screamed out "Kade." It was his birthday, his song, and his decision. I had my preference, and he had his - but his ability to stick to his guns and just know that it would be awesome allowed all of us to do something new, and fun, and very cool. He opened my eyes, yet again, to what is possible when we turn our backs on what we're accustomed to and embrace something new.
And we still got to light the candle.