Friday, March 10, 2017

Stopping the Unstoppable

Reagan recently turned five. Five is a big deal to kids. I remember when Madison hit that "whole hand" birthday. She felt like one of the big kids she'd been eyeing for years. I'm not sure what she thought was going to change when she passed from "little kid" to "big kid", but it was a really big deal to her.

Naturally, five was a big deal for Reagan as well. She's always trying to catch up to Madison in age. She's seen what five brings. She knows it's big kid territory. For the weeks preceding her birthday, she talked and talked about what a big kid she was and how excited she was for her birthday. You know, like kids do. She talked about her party, her wish list, her cake, all the decisions she'd get to make that day.

But here's the catch - Reagan is a Leap Baby, and 2017 doesn't have a February 29 on the calendar. For us, it isn't a big deal. We have told her that her birthday is the last day of February. She knows it's the 29th, but we made a big deal about writing the big day on our wall calendar in the February 28th box. She gets it, as much as a five year old can. Birthdays are a big part of being a kid, and she's willing to accept anything.

Then come the jokesters. The ones who just won't let it go.

"You aren't five!", these hilarious adults bray. "You're only ONE!"

"Awwww....too bad," they say, with mock sadness. "No birthday this year!"

I usually smile, and make light of the conversation, like a tall person replies to "how's the weather up there?" when they hear it seventy-five times and are trying to be polite, while letting the quipster know that they really aren't all that original. My response is usually to reassure my five year old that, sure, she's special, but she gets that fundamental childhood birthday rite.

And I wish, I wish, that would be the end of it. But most of the time, said adult jokester needs us to know just how amusing they think this line of small talk is, and they won't let it go. Nope, she isn't five!! You're not correcting me, mom of said small child! I have this funny line of conversation and I am sticking to it!

I'm not sure why. Is it that weird to them? Have they always wanted to meet a Leap Baby to try out material they've only seen on the internet once every four years? Do they expect me to join in? What is their end game? Do they want the kid to cry? It would be one thing if she was an adult, eager to join in and claim she was only ten instead of forty, but do they not remember being five and being obsessed with all things birthday?

There's no good solution, so I usually flip back to barely contained annoyance, tell Reagan confidently that she sure is five, and change the subject (or leave, if I can). But I was chatting with my best friend, and she's also been the brunt of plenty of "can't drop it" jokes. She's short - only 4'8", and she's heard it all, from "are you shopping in the kids' department" to "hey, can you even drive without a booster seat? The law says you can't!", and she's said that she hasn't figured out how to make them stop in the twenty years she's heard the same old quips, but that her favorite way to put those "won't drop it" adults in their place is to play dumb. (By the way, this doesn't go for the typical jokester, who is willing to drop it after a laugh, or even the person who is generally interested in the seatbelt law because they have a kid itching to ditch the booster).

She'll give them a quizzical look and act like she doesn't get it. Wait, why, is that funny? Please, good sir, explain it to me.

Oh, I'm short. Thank you so much for noticing. That's not a rude thing to say at all. Ok, let's move on.

Well, I tried it, and all I can say is, damn, that's satisfying, especially because the random shopper at Party City was a textbook I'm getting the last word and hanging onto this joke forever person. The person who looked at our two straight faces and had to explain to us why they were hilarious faltered pretty fast and man, did it feel good.

And when Reagan's forty, she can decide if she wants to be ten! A woman never judges!
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