Friday, June 22, 2012

A birthday list full of the important things in life

From today's Briefing:

My baby girl turned 7 this week.
A few folks asked me what Katie wanted for her birthday, and it was difficult to answer. Partly because she has everything she needs and a whole bunch of what she wants. And partly because you can’t buy most of the things she loves.
Sometime in the spring, she wrote this in her first-grade writing journal:
“10 Things I love:
My Daddy
My Mommy
My dog
When I was 6 going on 7, my top 10 would have been heavier on tangible stuff, like my Barbie town house, Holly Hobbie kitchen and Funny Bone Favorites album. If you had asked what I wanted for my birthday, the list would have been dominated by Snoopy, Ziggy and the Muppets.
Katie’s more likely to ask for experiences. She’s more interested in doing stuff than collecting stuff.
So when she asked if she could camp in the backyard on the night before she turned 7, I said yes.
Veteran camper Cooper set up the tent in our tiny backyard, and he relinquished custody of his cot for a sleeping bag so that Katie could have the more comfortable sleeping quarters.
They settled in for a movie and then slumber. All was peaceful in the back yard until 5:15 a.m., when Katie woke in a puddle.
They clamored out of the tent and inside the house to describe what seemed like rain but wasn’t. Then I remembered that our sprinkler system is set to water the grass in the middle of the night once a week — the same night as the birthday campout.
The experience was a little richer than we expected. We all agreed that it’s better to be caught in sprinklers with quick access to permanent shelter than to be caught in a rainstorm in the middle of nowhere. And I vowed to pay more attention to our watering schedule.
Katie may not request a long list of toys, but she does have a standing request for people. She craves being surrounded by big groups of folks who love her. If she had her way, we’d invite friends and family members for dinner every night of the week.
The child’s mother, on the other hand, is a classic introvert. Friendships and close relationships are hugely important, but I crave quiet time. Being around a bunch of people can be physically and emotionally draining.
It’s not her fault that we’re opposites on the social interaction preference scale. The least I could do, I figured, was to accommodate her request the week of her birthday.
So we hosted a birthday party for some friends at home a few days before her special day. And then we had a small dinner party with a couple of families on the actual day.
With camping and the two parties combined, we covered every item on her top 10 list.
She never doubts her daddy’s presence. (This is her third birthday since his death.) The rest of the family was physically present. God is always with her (and always on her party invitation list).
She was showered with love, surrounded by kindness and filled with joy. She fell into bed (or cot) each night at peace.
There was pie, too. Homemade chocolate chip pie with a side of whipped cream, baked with love.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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