Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Cake I Wanted Just Wasn't in the Cards

This week, my oldest son will turn eight. As you can imagine, this requires a lot of planning. The fact that his birthday falls during the holiday season doesn’t make it any easier. On top of the usual holiday madness, there are extra gifts to buy, there is food to order and there are party details to arrange.

Not the least important of these extra details is the birthday cake. When it’s the at home dinner amongst family, it is the best tasting cake, decorations be damned, with a few candles stuck into it. But for the kids’ party, with friends and classmates, the pressure is on.

All his peers will be on hand. Sure, they’ll be singing, “Happy birthday to you, cha-cha-cha!” but while they act like they’re into the music, their judging little eyes will be scanning the cake surface behind the candles. “What did he choose for his cake?” they’ll wonder. Is it something that arbitrarily became too baby-ish at the ripe old age of eight or is it the coolest new thing that every second grader in the world is completely obsessed with for no understandable reason?

In the week leading up to our trip to the bakery, he changed his mind at least four thousand times. It was Star Wars, then it was Pokemon, then it was ninjas, then Army men. As we walked into the front door, it was the Chicago Blackhawks and had been for a solid forty-eight hours.

I was pleased to say the least. Any interest in sports is welcome and they have been very interested as of late (see: December 8th’s post). Hockey in particular is something I’m quite happy to see them excited about because I’ll get to watch more of it with them. Yes, for as critical as I am of the judgmental little eyes of his classmates I, too, was wondering what his cake theme would be. So sue me.

So, we made our way to the giant laminated book of cake decorations and I flipped directly to the sports pages, being sure to bypass all the lamer themes just in case.

“There you go,” I announced on the NHL page and placed an authoritative finger on the Blackhawks logo.

“Oooh, wait,” my son said suddenly and began leafing backwards to a page I had inadvertently allowed him to see.

I’ll be honest. I started to panic. For a few seconds, I swore he was going to turn to Dora the Explorer or the Disney Princesses page and say, “That one.” But as it turned out, he flipped only a few pages in reverse to the NFL page.

“Awesome,” I said. “A Bears cake.”

“No,” he replied. Then his index finger rose skyward.

I started to panic again. This time, the visions came of his innocent little finger landing square on the Packers and my having to sanitize it immediately. I would then scold him, “You never touch the G!” Everything went slow motion as his finger descended upon the page.

What would he choose? Packers? Vikings? Patriots? Nooooo! I couldn’t bare to watch. Yet I did, like a gruesome car wreck.


I stared at him and blinked. “Oh,” was all I said at first. “Really? The Cardinals?” I suppose it could have been much worse and part of me was tempted to put my foot down and tell him he was just getting a Bears cake and that was that.

But then I remembered something my wife once said when I was being too controlling. “The more you push them one way, the more they might push back.” And I realized then that maybe the Bears weren’t his favorite team, but if I tried to force them down his throat now, maybe he would become a Packer or Viking fan down the road. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if that happened.

So, my eight year old son will have an Arizona Cardinals cake for his birthday this year. It’s what he wants and I’m not concerned about it. Besides, when the Bears make the playoffs (provided I haven’t just jinxed them), I’ll simply call attention to the fact that they are still playing and the Cardinals are already done for the season. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the fudge icing.

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