Posted on: Tuesday
I stayed up very late the night before the party, sewing mountains of fluffy white tulle into tutu's for the guests. I tore the gauzy fabric into strips and layered them around the elastic as the machine hummed and the children slept. We found the tulle at the the old fabric shop around the corner from our apartment, the one with the dusty turn-of-the-century Singer sewing machine sitting in the window and the rainbow spools of thread piled high on tiny shelves. The man who runs the shop had given us a deal on the yardage, on account that it was Biet's third birthday. "You're three? And a ballerina?" he had inquired with a grin. "I'm three! And I'm the prima!" replied Biet, straight-faced yet beaming with pride, her little eyebrows raised high into rounded arches so as to inspire awe in the man of her great talents.
Of course, this second statement was false. I'm not even sure what one must do to become a prima ballerina, though I have an inkling that it involves years of practice and gruesome competition, none of which Biet could even imagine.
But on the day of her party, we did our best to make it true, if only for a little while.
The playground would become the stage. A sparkling curtain of gold would hang in the back, and the whole world, which to Biet entailed whomever happened to be at playground on this fine Saturday morning, would be the audience. All eyes would be on the prima, surrounded by her ensemble, as she twirled and whirled under the balloons and paper flowers which peppered the air above. There would be blue hats and white tutu's, and pearls for everyone! This was the birthday girl's wish.
Oh, and the cake was to have both pearls and eyes. This really had nothing to do with ballet, and everything to do with the opinionated decisiveness of three-year-olds. With a little blue food coloring and imagination, we pulled it off.
I remember that at Biet's last birthday, which just happened to be in this exact same park, she received a giant pink tutu from a friend. Having worked so hard on bringing her up in an environment focused on creativity and expression, free of the fluff and the pink princess culture so dominant in our society, I was stunned when she squealed and put the tutu on, wearing it for the remainder of the party. I didn't quite know how to handle a "girly" girl, and hadn't even truly considered that I may have one on my hands. As it turns out, and as I come to realize more and more over time, all of the gender stereotypes, whether they lean one way or the other, are actually irrelevant. What is relevant are happy kids, a playful and colorful childhood, enthusiastic days and open minds. Over the last twelve months, I've worked hard on letting go and really embracing what makes my kids happy. Biet has thrown herself into ballet, and dance, and pink tutu's, and that's awesome. She has embraced the notion of motherhood, as she's watched me mother Lucien from day one, and she loves her little baby dolls dearly. It's amazing to see her care for them. Is it too girly and stereotypical? I really don't care. Is it beautiful and empathetic and nurturing? Absolutely. She also loves fire trucks. And painting. And music. Some days, her favorite color is pink. Other's, it's black. And it's all wonderful. It's all who she is, and who she is becoming. And I love every bit of it, every bit of her.
So when she asked for a ballet tutu party, I did my best to make it happen. We never actually made it to the recital part, but I think after all of the friends and pizza and presents and cake, she forgot all about it anyway. Her good friends joined together to celebrate her, and her three years of life, and it was lovely. And as children's parties always are, it was also a whirlwind of mayhem and laughter and mess, just the way it's supposed to be.
That night, and for many days after, she lay in bed at the end of day and told me with a tired little smile "Mama, I'm THREE. And it was my party. And I was the prima ballerina."
"Yes, you were," I told her, "and you were perfect. Did you have fun?"
She smiled even wider and tucked her baby dolls into bed next to her. "Yes, Mama, I did. And we're gonna have another birthday party tomorrow!"
Well child, I'm not quite sure about that. We will have many more birthdays, but not just yet. Let's all slow down a little and enjoy each day of this upcoming year together, as a three-year-old little girl and her thirty-year-old Mama. I'm sure I will look back on this time and say, "Biet, you were so little! Remember when you made me hunt for eyeball decorations all over the city for your birthday cake?!" And you will look back and say, "Mama, you were so young! Remember when you stayed up all night sewing tutu's for my friends?!"
These are the days, my tiny dancer. I love you so very much. Happy Birthday.
// the day of Biet's 2nd birthday + Biet's first birthday party + Biet at one year old //
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