My youngest daughter, Mallie, turned five last week. For months prior to her big day, she would ask,
"When am I going to be five?" Eventually, we made a paper chain to quell the daily inquiry. (Not sure how many links it was, but it was LONG.) Then we began to get requests: cake and ice cream color and flavor, and the list of all the children to invite to the "party". (Let me interrupt my train of thought here, and say that my husband and I are not "birthday-party-throwers". The circumstances that Niel and I grew up with did not allow us to ever have big parties, and as our own children have gotten older we have grown to love the intimate family affairs we call parties, so this was getting kind-of exciting.)
Then came the big request. The wish list. What a child wants for his or her birthday is always a good topic of conversation, however, with Mallie, from the moment she understood that she had a birthday coming, this conversation remained brief. She only wanted one thing.
But first, here is something you should know about my four-year-old daughter. She is obsessed with animals---
*pretending to be one (cat, wild cat, dog, rabbit, horse...)
*capturing them (real ones in jars: lady bugs, rolly pollies, lizards, earthworms)
*pretending her little brother is an animal
*pretending to be a captured animal
*capturing her little brother
*letting the animals go
*and (not) lastly, pretending to let the animals go---
And so, the one thing she wanted?
Not just any cage. A cage she could get in. A big cage.
Do I get my five-year-old a cage? A CaGE!?
What kind of parent gets their little daughter a cage? What kind of little girl wants a cage? Oh yeah, Mallie. Mallie would want a cage. But what kind of parent gets their daughter a cage?!? What would my friends and neighbors think/say?
So went my mind.
At one point I had decided not to get one, and I told her so. "No room for it", I told her. She seemed alright with that, but then I realized maybe she didn't fully comprehend that that meant NO CAGE, because she kept talking about it as if it would happen.
It was two days before her big day that I sent one of my most wonderful friends to Shreveport (an hour away) to pick up the Craigslist find and secure for Mallie the best birthday ever.
I kept thinking, "It is certainly unconventional, but is it terribly unreasonable?" It is that question which allowed her the gift of her young longing. So, Happy Birthday Mallie.
Oh, and to keep with the freedom vs. captivity theme, we released 1,200 ladybugs in our yard right before we ate our cake.