On the morning of Mabel’s second birthday, she and I ran into our neighbors while taping a giant paw print made out of a blue bed sheet to our garage door. The sweet and thoughtful people that they are, they had bought a backpack for her. It was Mabel’s first second birthday gift, and an incredibly kind and unnecessary gesture. And then came the verbal tug of war this is trying to get a toddler to show appreciation.
“Mabel, that’s so great! What do you say?”
“Iss a backpack.”
“Yes, Bunnyhead, I know. And Kalimoir got it for you. What do you say to her?”
“…Iss a pink backpack.”
“Yes honey. Good job. It is pink. But can you say thank you to Kalimoir for getting you the pink backpack?”
“My like Dowa.”
“Yes honey, Dora wears a backpack too. And now you can look just like her thanks to Kalimoir. Now please say thank you.”
“Maaaabellll, what do you say?”
“My want to watch Dowaaaaa.”
Talking to a toddler is like arguing with quicksand. The more you struggle, the more stuck you get. Kalimoir, a mother of four children herself, fortunately understood that and doesn’t seem like the type of person who only gets gifts to receive acknowledgement of her generosity. Especially from a two-year-old. Still, it would be nice for Mabel to get used to saying thank you on occasion – whether she knows what it means or not – to make the other 15 conversations we would have later that day move along more quickly.
For Mabel’s second birthday, we decided to throw her a Blue’s Clues-themed party. As much as I rely on television as a crutch on my at-home-dad sick days, Mabel still hasn’t gotten bitten by the princess bug. Probably because we haven’t really exposed her to any of it. For this reason, she also doesn’t crave beef jerky, beer, or bungee jumping. As far as she knows, the word television is synonymous with a peppy blue animated dog, talking condiments, and an adult man who can not only talk to all of them, but also to Mabel. And football of course. And very recently, Dora, which is my wife’s fault.
Planning a Blues Clues party nowadays is a difficult endeavor. When typing Blues Clues party favors, Google suggested I reset my browser to 1998. I’m sure 15 years ago, light green and dark green horizontal striped rugby shirts were available in every corner drug store, but in 2014, they’re a little hard to come by. Fortunately, Mabel has internet-savvy babysitters who enjoy spending their work time on impossible chores for the purpose of throwing a theme party. We managed to find chocolate party favors in the shape of the show’s characters, miniature Handy Dandy Notebooks for all the kids, and the piece de resistance, a reasonable facsimile of Steve’s green and green striped shirt.
I have been blessed with the distinction of looking way too much like Steve from Blue’s Clues. This garnered me some popularity during my day camp counselor years, but I had no real use for this gift. Until now. With that shirt, the 86 DVR-ed episodes of the show played on repeat, and my ability to make an idiot out of myself, I was to become Steve. And we were going to play an epic live version of Blue’s Clues at Mabel’s birthday party for all the toddler s who have absolutely no idea what Blue’s Clues is. Sure, there was that huge gaping hole in this concept, but I unfortunately look nothing like Dora.
The party had been going on for about an hour. Blue cookies and cupcakes were largely avoided by adults because they looked disgusting and tasted like Jolly Ranchers, but the older kids managed to take them off the counter and sneak them to Mabel when we weren’t looking. Oh well. Happy birthday, Mabel. Despite the fact that everyone was already having fun without my assistance, it was time. Time for me to interrupt that fun for the sake of my daughter’s happiness. And maybe a little bit for my own ego. But this Blue’s Clues party game had been planned for weeks – it was largely the reason we didn’t give up on the theme – and I’ll be darned if I’m going to let 15 miniature Handy Dandy Notebooks go to waste.
I – nay, Steve – jumped around like a goofball, led 15 increasingly excited kids from room to room, writing down clues and singing the incorrect words to dumbed-down songs, until the moment when we would find out what Blue was trying to tell us. What was she trying to tell us? What was the special gift that she wanted to get for Mabel? Oh my! It’s her own special Blue doll! What a surprise!
Honestly – as you can see clearly on the video – Mabel wasn’t necessarily that impressed with her doll. She really just wanted to go back outside and talk to Mailbox again. You’d be surprised how many household items can come to life with a bag full of googly eyes. But it wasn’t the toy that I really poured my passion into anyway. It was the excitement of the event that was fun for me, and hopefully for the rest of her friends, and mostly for Mabel. And so I – nay, Steve – retreated back upstairs and was thusly transformed back into Daddy, who tragically missed the whole show.
Because the kids were having so much fun on their own, we opted not to interrupt that with a gift-opening session destined to fail. Besides, we could prolong the birthday by up to a week this way. The party lasted over two hours, which is pretty long considering the attention span of the average two-year-old. Dinner time rolled around and I was beat. Between the show and the other intricacies of the party, I barely said hi to most of the party guests, including my baby girl. I finally got to eat the food everyone else had been eating for the last couple hours. The crowd subsided with the exception of my sister and her two kids, who were staying the night. We all stayed up to watch Wallace and Grommit (the one with the penguin), and we finally got our sugar-laced two-year-old to sleep almost two hours after her normal bed time.
On a normal night, I’ll read her up to five books, tuck her in, and sing to her while lying down with her in her bed. But she was not going to need those five books tonight. As soon as we changed her into her pajamas and turned the light down, a switch went off in her and she fell limp to the bed. Her eyes struggled to stay open just a little bit longer, to take in the day that she just had. I just laid there looking at my exhausted little angel, wishing every day could be exactly like this one. I leaned down and kissed her on her forehead. “Happy birthday, Bunnyhead. I hope you had a fun time today. Now you have a good baby night and we’ll have a fun baby day tomorrow.” She managed a hug with her eyes closed.
“Thank you, Daddy.”
I don’t know if she knew what she was saying, and if she did, what exactly she was thanking me for. Perhaps she was just thanking me for the kiss on her forehead. Or maybe she wanted to show me she could say the words I’d been begging her to say all day. Or maybe she knew exactly what she was saying. But I just wanted to melt those words down, build a house out of them, and live in that moment forever. You’re welcome, Bunny.