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Fourth Birthday Party

Could the Fourth Birthday Be the Best Birthday?

As of April 6, I officially have a 4-year-old. How did that happen?! I swear we were celebrating her first birthday about five minutes ago, and while I know there have been countless milestones, challenges, and temper tantrums since, it's hard to wrap my head around the fact that my first baby has turned into an independent little girl who loves school, has real friends, and, most importantly, still doesn't get that you can invite those friends to a birthday party.

That leads me to reason number one that I think her fourth birthday may be the best one yet: while she's old enough to be excited for her birthday and the festivities and presents that come along with it, she hasn't discovered that parties can also include a fun theme, a pint-size guest list, and pricey extras (believe me, if she knew real princesses make party appearances, she would be all over it).

I feel a little guilty about not introducing her to the party possibilities, mostly because last year she sorta got the shaft. Her baby brother was 10 weeks old, and I could barely open my eyes, let alone plan a decent celebration. Luckily, the grandparents stepped up, and she ended up getting two cakes, one at each of their houses, and in her eyes, that made the birthday a huge success. I considered making up for last year's shortcomings by throwing her a huge bash with all of her tiny friends, but when she never mentioned wanting to include her buddies in the celebration and I realized her birthday was the Monday after Easter, I thanked the calendar gods and shelved any plans that involved a dozen preschoolers destroying my house in favor of a small family party.

I'm pretty sure that this is the last year we'll get away with it. The invitations to other kids' parties at play spaces, trampoline parks, and kiddie mani-pedi salons have started rolling in, and I'm sure by next year, she'll have fully processed the fact that she can request her own elaborate fiesta. But this year, she's quite content with a cake (she wants one just like this, and although it feeds 27, she's getting it), her immediate family, and, fingers crossed, an Elsa dress, which is the sum total of her wish list. Thank you for commercial-free viewing, Disney Junior.

While the party, or lack thereof, is a big part of my excitement about 4, I'm equally eager to say goodbye to the threenager stage, which has been full of some insane battles of will and lots of drama, including the now-classic (in our household, at least) quote, "You can't be crying because I'm crying," when one tantrum left us both in tears. What a narcissist. Sure, we had some good moments in my daughter's third year. She mastered writing her name and drawing cool pictures, she became a superfun movie date, and she learned to be a great big sister, but all in all, it was a pretty tough stage.

While I'm sure 4 is going to have its own challenges (getting dressed in matching clothes that actually fit is shaping up to be a big one), I can already tell that my daughter is becoming more mature, rational, and helpful; in short, she's making me a lot less crazy. She might not put on her shoes or buckle herself into her car seat the first — or fifth — time I tell her to, but she can and will eventually do it herself. She's starting to entertain herself for long stretches without the television or the iPad, and every once in a while, she even sleeps in her own bed all night. This is progress.

Sure, I might be deluding myself. I've certainly heard from friends that 4 isn't exactly breezy. But at least I didn't have to rent a jumpy house or hire a magician to ring it in.

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