Birthdays are big deals in the primary grades (as well they should be.) Yesterday I learned just how big they can get.
The Birthday Girl sashayed into the classroom with her hair topped by a plastic tiara and a huge shopping bag in her hand. Inside the bag were 3 foil-covered pans and a stack of purple napkins and paper plates. I wished her a happy birthday (as I’d also done in the Morning Message on the blackboard) and showed her where she could put the treats until lunchtime.
The PE teacher took me aside to let me know that she’d talked to the Birthday Girl’s Mom, who’d indicated that only one of the pans of snacks was nut-safe. We do have one child with a peanut allergy in the class, though apparently it’s all right for other kids in the class to have food containing nuts. Anyway, the teacher asked me if I could serve the snacks in the classroom so we could make sure that the nut-free child got nut-free snacks. No problem; it was raining and we’d be having inside recess anyway.
When I delivered the kids to the cafeteria, one little girl asked where she should sit, because in the lineup she’d wound up across from the boy who needed to be nut-free, and she had a PBJ sandwich.
That’s when I started wondering why the Birthday Girl’s Mom hadn’t just made 3 pans of nut-safe treats, since she’d made the effort to make one.
After lunch we returned to the classroom, sang “Happy Birthday” and had the brownies on purple paper plates. The Birthday Girl then asked if she could take along a friend and start the Birthday Tour, in which the Birthday Child visits every single teacher in the school, offers a treat, and gets a little present like a sticker or a pencil.
I knew about that tradition, so I had brought along a bunch of fancy pencils and let her choose one. She wanted to begin the Birthday Tour right away, even though I told her that half the teachers were at lunch right now and wouldn’t be in their classrooms. That didn’t matter. She wasn’t going to hear about waiting. I didn’t feel like fighting this battle so I sent them on their way. Everyone else had a grand time with their usual rainy-day activities like puzzles and rainbow looms and drawing pictures and building things with the math manipulatives.
The Birthday Girl and Friend returned from the Birthday Tour 5 minutes before the end of recess. When I directed the kids to start putting away the toys and return to their seats, the two of them protested, “But we didn’t get any playtime!”
Me: “Sorry about that. You were busy delivering the birthday treats. Playtime’s over now.”
(What was I going to do, let the two of them play while we went on and did a page in the grammar book? Seriously?)
After a little while when the Birthday Girl and Friend had finished the page we were working on but not everyone else was done, I let them finish the Tour. They returned and the afternoon went along as smoothly as any afternoon involving 18 7-year-olds and one middle-aged substitute teacher can reasonably be expected to go. As dismissal time neared, I sent groups of children to get their schoolbags and jackets and start packing up to go home.
The Birthday Girl approached me: “You forgot to give me my Birthday Note and bookmark!”
Me: “What note and bookmark?”
Birthday Girl: “Regular Teacher always gives us a Birthday Note and bookmark!”
Me: “I’m sorry. I didn’t know about Birthday Notes and I have no idea where Regular Teacher keeps the bookmarks. That’s why I brought pencils for you to choose.”
The Birthday Girl adjusted her tiara and sulked as she lined up for dismissal.