Celebrating Birthdays at Home and In Mexico
Birthday season has finally passed at our house (whew!) Rory turned 6 in January and June turned 8 just last week. Four of our five birthdays fall within the months before and after Christmas and the celebrating and present-palooza can get a little out of control.
This being the last year that we will have “regular” birthdays I was a little more indulgent in letting the girls have whatever party they chose, but we also asked for no presents so we wouldn’t have more stuff to get rid of. After all, our move to Mexico is now only 4 months away. Is it mean to have a birthday with no presents? We’d just have to get rid of them, so we talked about it before hand with the girls, and they didn’t seem to mind.
Every decision we make about our kids has me second guessing myself lately, and I wanted these last birthdays before we become a traveling family to be special. Will there be kids to invite next year? Honestly with school rules that prohibit passing out invites it was pretty hard to get in contact with any kids here, and I hope it will be easier when we are world-schooling and seeing everyone in person.
We have celebrated a birthday once before in Mexico. In 2012 June turned 6 while we were exploring the Riviera Maya with all three girls. It was one of the few birthday celebrations that was focused on as a family instead of distracted from by a the rigors of planning a kid’s party. The kids’ parties have been a blur of invites and RSVPs, cupcakes, balloons, planning and finally wrangling children through a few hours of group fun. Don’t get me wrong, a good time is had and I love to see my kids happy, but the role of party planner makes me feel outside of it all; too often I am the manager, not part of the party.
When June’s 6th birthday fell during our 2013 trip to Mexico we made that day all about her, but it was just us so we celebrated as a family. We drove our rental car to Puerto Morelos, a small town just South of Cancun and had lunch right on the sand at Pelicano’s. The strolling band serenaded June at our table, although I was more impressed than she was and the $5.00 they demanded afterward (USD not pesos) seemed a little steep. The girls ran down to the beach and jumped off the dock into the turquoise water with local children while we waited for our lunch.
After eating we were ready for the highlight of the day that June had chosen: Crococun Zoo. Previously a breeding and research facility for crocodiles, hurricane damage had inspired a remodel into an interactive zoo open to the public.
Our bilingual guide, Charlie, handed us snakes to wear around our necks, a very strong baby crocodile and a large South American lizard that slept through our attentions. When not at the zoo he was studying to work in IT like Jason, and I found this ironic since Jason has a degree in Environmental Science and always intended to work with the Department of Natural Resources. They could have changed places and been happy.
We walked through one of the large crocodile areas where the full-grown breeding stock laid just off the path with nothing between us and them. Charlie assured us that it was safe, but we kept a tight grip on the girls’ hands.
Local animals were featured on the rest of the tour, including playful coatimundis, hairless Mayan dogs that loved being petted and small white-tailed deer that seemed like pets compared to the large ones we see in Iowa. Feeding the deer made a nearby peacock jealous and much to our surprise it flew at the deer and chased them away.
Wild spider monkeys followed us in the trees, knowing food would be offered at the end. We placed fruit in baskets that were pulled up ropes to the waiting monkeys. Charlie explained that they used to be allowed to climb on him and interact directly, but they became aggressive with guests, searching for food in their pockets, and had to be kept at more of a distance. One walked boldly up behind my husband Jason and was about to climb up his back when it was chased away by Charlie, much to my disappointment (talk about a great photo-op!)
It was not a traditional birthday party; there was no cake, no presents, and no rowdy group of classmates and friends. It was just us, having a fun day as a family and doing something special for our daughter. It was perfect, and I hope we have more days like that as we travel.
Of course there are downsides as well; a week after we got back June saw a Barbie that she wanted and threw a fit in the store. “Why can’t I have it? You didn’t get me anything for my birthday!” I couldn’t believe it! Telling her that a trip to Mexico, having her hair braided on the beach, lunch by the ocean, a serenade and an afternoon at Crococun Zoo was more than most adults get had no effect, much to my frustration.
She got over it after the Barbie-fever passed, but nothing is perfect. I came to realize that some days the extraordinary experiences we have as we travel will seem worth it, and some days we’ll miss that normal life. Every decision comes at the cost of something else no matter where you are, and we’ll just keep doing the best we can like everyone else does.
With that in mind, I can’t wait to see what birthdays are like next year!