Party on, Philip


Philip isn’t smiling in this picture, but looking at still makes me smile.

Yesterday, we celebrated Philip’s fifth birthday with a party. Throughout, I pondered whether the party was for Philip or only because of him.

He wasn’t miserable, but I thought he’d be just as happy if I sent everyone away. First, I made him wait to eat because I set the party time when it was convenient for guests and not necessarily for him. Second, he wasn’t interested in opening gifts. He would have been just as content bouncing on his trampoline or relaxing on his own. Philip only nibbled a few pieces of his birthday cake, and that was after we removed all the icing. After cake, Philip wanted to go outside, not at all caring that we had a living room full of guests.

Still, there were several positive moments. Philip liked the Curious George decorations. He sat at the table and examined one of the napkins adorned with the face of his favorite cartoon character, and then, when I put on the table cover, he carefully studied it, too. Of course, when I put out the pizza we served for lunch, Philip only had eyes (and a stomach) for pepperoni. He was intrigued by several of his gifts once they were unwrapped, and he enjoyed playing with several of his cards, too.

It was when we had lit the candles on the cake that I thought the party might have been worth it. Philip walked over and, without prompting, blew out two of the candles. Some people tried to stop him, but I was so proud of him. Through observation, he had learned one of the traditions of a birthday party. And heaven knows that blowing out the candles was an accomplishment that is all his. For several years, I’ve tried to show him how to blow bubbles or to blow dandelions that have gone to seed. Suddenly, early this summer, Philip blew on a pin wheel. He mastered the skill all on his own.

Will we throw a party for Philip’s sixth birthday? I’m not sure. From now on, I’m not going to throw him a party just because that’s what people do. I’ll throw him a party because he wants one.



10 thoughts on “Party on, Philip

  1. The important thing is that the reached a milestone (which a lot of people outside of this particular “fold” in the universe wouldn’t get…he blew candles. He actually fulfilled a social convention…

    That’s all that matters. And I’m sure he had fun…in his own way…which is the best way to have fun. “It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how” is one of my favorite quotes from The Cat in the Hat, but I always tell myself that fun is different for everyone.

    You’ve got the right idea…and Philip looks totally happy to me.


  2. Happy birthday, Philip! (I know, I know: I’m late)

    It looks like a wonderful celebration and as long as he wasn’t hiding in the closet (ahem) emerging only to ask when all these people are leaving (ahem) it was a good party.


  3. Happy birthday Philip! Our parents held birthday parties for my brother even though he didn’t care about the presents, the cake, and was very overwhelmed by the noise caused by his cousins and extended family. He didn’t blow out a candle unassisted until his teens and he didn’t start showing interest in presents until age 18 or 19. Now, he’ll pounce on an unopened gift like a “typical” 9 year old when he sees it. One day, it just clicked for him.. No rhyme or reason to it. He just needed to get there in his own time. I think it makes us even more appreciative of those special moments since we didn’t necessarily believe they were going to happen. Just goes to show you there is no crystal ball when it comes to our loved ones’ futures! You just have to support them and love them and see what will be.


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