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The birthday girl


Diary of a First-Time Dad
Edwin McGreal

Today (Tuesday) is Frankie’s first birthday, but we had the party on Sunday.
The house was heaving. Sixteen adults and 12 kids. Of those kids, six were under five. And most of them high on sugar. Frankie was the only one of them who is not walking. You couldn’t turn but for risking tripping over a tot.
We thought it was full house with just the three of us. It is amazing how peaceful what we thought was our chaotic normality felt on Sunday evening.
But it was, of course, worth it all: Having family and friends over to celebrate a significant milestone – Frankie turning the grand old age of one.
The first hour was the hardest. Through sheer bad luck, all bar four of our guests arrived in the five-minute window between 1.55pm and 2pm. We had said a 2pm start. When on earth did Irish people become so punctual?
All the kids were well behaved, and all the adults were a great help, but 28 people landing in a house all at once is bound to lead to pandemonium.
I was on drinks duty. The job description was to make sure everyone had a drink. It was convenient that every time I had to go and get people refills, I could grab one myself. It’s probably the only job requiring multi-tasking that us men can manage. It was a very necessary skill on Sunday.
Nobody went hungry or thirsty, and we learned to buy less coleslaw and couscous next time around … and more Coca-Cola. Don’t complicate things.
And the birthday girl herself was wondering what all the fuss was about. She was in her element with all the traffic in her usually spacious sitting room.
And she was blissfully oblivious to the fact she was the centre of attention, the reason for the gathering. Because, let’s be honest here, one-year-old kids are not too bothered about having birthday parties.
Frankie can’t talk yet, but if she could I’d be pretty sure she’d be asking for the fundamental stuff – ‘feed me’, ‘lift me’, ‘let me at my toys’ and ‘change my nappy unless you want the whole outfit going in the wash’. Simple requests.
But it is important to mark such events and be able to look back on them in the future. To be able to tell Frankie about her very first birthday party and show her the pictures from the day.
She woke from her morning nap at 1pm and stuck it out for the rest of the day, refusing entreaties to go down for even just a cat nap. There was too much craic going on, too much she would be missing out on. She didn’t seem to mind being pulled and dragged – and that was only the adults.
She went to bed at 8pm, after crashing and burning. Her parents weren’t long after her.
It’s hard to believe she’s one already. And I reckon I aged a year on Sunday myself.

In his fortnightly column, first-time-father Edwin McGreal  charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.