“I really love you dad.” Such words, when so sincerely spoken, by such a small girl, would melt the hardest heart. Her follow-on phrase, however, led me to better understand the proximate cause of this profound outburst of affection, “I also really love your chocolate,” she said, in a pointed reference to the piece of chocolate I’d just given my newly-minted three-year-old daughter. Well, it’s not every day you turn three, I had reasoned, and so treats were the order of the day. Hence the chocolate induced love.
Her big third birthday celebrations began with the whole family roused at an unearthly hour for the ritual unwrapping of presents. The birthday girl’s face beamed brightly as each new toy was slowly revealed from behind sparkling wrapping paper. Her older brother and sisters then helped her put them together, and played kindly with their littlest sister, upon whom they all dote.
Our ordinarily healthy breakfast regimen is merrily abandoned on the kids’ birthdays, when a box of ordinarily contraband Coco Pops is permitted for one day only. Chocolate smudged and slightly hyperactive children therefore begin the morning of each birthday just as they mean to go on, on a sugar induced high.
The birthday girl loves lions and tigers and so her birthday outing was a trip to the wildlife park. All the morning’s excitement had taken its toll on her, and she slept for the entire journey to the park. Upon arrival, when she blearily awoke, her older sister made the error of pointing this out, saying “you slept the whole way”! The reply was instant and furious, “No I didn’t! I’m a big girl”! I’ve long found that it’s wiser to simply agree.
The big girl hardly needed any buggy assistance, even on the long walk around the park, as she ran excitedly from the ostriches to the buffalo to the giraffes and back again. The rhino were in a similar mood to her – perhaps also having started the day with giant bowls of Coco Pops – they were also running frantically in circles at top speed. We gazed for a long time at her very favourite creatures, the lions, before settling for an ice cream break near the tiger enclosure.
As she watched the tiger repeatedly prowling back and forth along the perimeter of its enclosure, she asked, “Dad, why is the tiger walking up and down there all the time”? Just then, a cheeky grim came across her face, as she asked me conspiratorially, “Is he looking for the keys”? I laughed, “I hope he doesn’t find those keys”!
We rolled onward through the park, past monkeys, pelicans, seals and eagles before collapsing back into the car for the ferry journey to my father’s house, where a special birthday tea was waiting. There were games in the garden, another present from her beloved granddad along with a lovely big birthday cake with three candles to be blown out.
The fun continued at home, perhaps a little later than was ideal. However, the excitement, the new toys and the unusual amount of sugary treats all added up to a late evening for the special girl. When sleep eventually won out, and the house grew quiet, we exhausted parents were left to take a breather, and to think back upon the three magical years we’ve had so far with a beautiful little girl, whose smile brightens all our days.