For Theo’s first birthday, there were no festivities. He was still a baby. He didn’t care. (I even checked to verify that there were indeed no photos of some celebratory measure that I had forgotten. There weren’t. It didn’t happen. However, I found photos of Theo dated four days after he turned one, at a children’s museum. So, we must not have been too horrible of parents.)
For Theo’s second birthday, we had a bubble party in Oakland, California with four of his classmates from school. Bubbles were (and are) pretty much Theo’s favorite thing in the world, so I think we redeemed ourselves as parents with this celebration, even if it was not as elaborate as some of those of his classmates’ parties with petting-zoos and catered meals.
Last year, we celebrated Theo’s third birthday on a beach in Cyprus. Our scheme was to encourage children to join us with offers of mini-chocolate cakes and thus create an impromptu birthday party. The cake-plan didn’t really work out due to language barriers and limited children. Plus, the wind kept blowing out the candles. (In case you were wondering, Theo successfully turned three despite these challenges.)
This year, for Theo’s fourth birthday, we are in Taiwan. We spent last Saturday at Da’an Park, with the goal of trying out Theo’s birthday presents, a glider and some bubbles. These were enormously successful in providing gateways to playing with other children (and sometimes adults), as Theo enthusiastically demonstrated his toys and declared his age to anyone who showed interest.
We brought masking tape to the park with us, which was a good call, since the (very inexpensive) glider ended up requiring a number of repairs.
We ended the day with a birthday cake and candles (inside this time, to avoid the wind.) This was such a hit that we ended up singing to Theo again the next morning AND the next evening, after which the cake was entirely consumed.
So, now we have a four-year-old. Whew.
We’ve heard that four is the age when children often begin to develop empathy and lessen their (age appropriate) sociopathic tendencies. While I sadly must report that empathy doesn’t seem to switch on magically the day kids turn four, I have noticed how much more curious Theo has been recently – about animals, physics, the international space station, and yes, even the inner lives of other people.
Sometimes, this feels like a very hard age, because Theo very strongly WANTS and can now begin to rationalize and bargain in manipulative ways to try to obtain these wants. (This can be exhausting, especially when he finishes rationalizing and starts shrieking.) On the other hand, now that he can think and express himself so much more clearly, it’s been even more fascinating to see the world through his musings, even when I don’t have all of the answers to his (many) questions.
And, as always, our charming, outgoing child continues to be such a wonderful ambassador and connection point to the people we meet around the world. I’m looking forward to continuing to explore together.