Low-key three

Toby opening presents

It wasn’t quite the day we had planned, but I think Toby enjoyed his low-key third birthday.

The snow giveth and the snow taketh away. On the plus side, yesterday’s heavy snowfall meant plentiful opportunity to play in the snow. However, it also meant we had to postpone Toby’s birthday party until next month.

To be honest, he had been fairly nonplussed about the idea of a birthday party to begin with, as every time we asked him whether he wanted to invite friend X his response was typically “No! I don’t want him/her to come!” Indeed he had been fairly blasé about the whole birthday thing – contrast that with Isaac, who works himself up into a frenzy of excitement at the prospect of attending the opening an envelope – at least until this morning arrived. Oh yes, then there were smiles and laughter and the familiar sights and sounds of wrapping paper being hurriedly ripped off and flung in eight different directions. It was a bit of a relief, to be honest, as we were beginning to wonder if he was at all bothered by his birthday.

Toby opening presents
Let me at it!

He plays his cards close to his chest, does Toby. His elder brother is a study in verbosity, theatrical gestures and melodrama when it comes to anything even remotely exciting. Toby, on the other hand, keeps his emotions in check more, saving his excitement for the here and now rather than burning it all on the anticipation. He was just as hyper and noisy this morning as Isaac would have been, but you would never have guessed it last night. Indeed, yesterday Isaac was more excited about it being nearly Toby’s birthday than Toby was.

Anyway, presents were opened and toys were assembled. Note to self: never buy cheapo own-brand toys from Tesco ever again. I spent half the morning cursing at one such present which seemed to consist solely of pieces which almost-but-not-quite fitted together, in much the same way my size ten feet would almost-but-not-quite fit into a medium-sized pair of gloves. It’s time (for Heather) to write a strongly worded letter.

After a sleds-and-snow play-date with some of Isaac’s friends – Toby tends to assume that all of his brother’s friends are automatically his too – we had a little family birthday lunch with just the five of us. We had all the stuff we would have had at a party outside: sandwiches, crisps, sausage rolls, Smarties, cake and, of course, party poppers. Did Toby care that no one else was there to celebrate with him? Not a jot. He loved it. I think he’s a lot like me in that respect: happier in a small group, comfortable in his own company, not wanting to make a big show of things. He was happy just staying in the house afterwards and playing quietly while I took Isaac out on his sled again – he’s really getting the hang of it now as he zoomed down our hill as fast as he could.

Isaac sled
Daddy, can I go on the Cresta run next?

And that was it, really. Pizzas – Toby’s favourite – for tea. A bit more play. Bed. Our little boy is no longer in his ‘terrible twos’ and into his terrific (hopefully) threes. Where did that little baby go?

It’s been a good third year on the whole, in many ways quite different from his brother’s equivalent period. His physical development certainly outstrips Isaac’s – whereas his brother is gangly and slightly awkward and kicks a football around about as naturally as an elephant performs ballet, Toby has better balance and coordination and seems more interested in doing sporty things than Isaac ever has been.

Conversely, his intellectual development has not been as quick. To be fair, his brother has always been obviously smart and academically inclined and I wouldn’t say Toby has been slow by any means, but we have noticed a significant improvement in his verbal abilities over the last three to four months. He’s much more into reading now than he was before, and he’s able to hold proper conversations with other people, which basically means he has discovered new and more sophisticated ways to refuse to do whatever we ask him to do. Oh yes. There’s plenty of quiet stubbornness there, something he gets from both his parents.

In truth, much of the rest of the year has been a bit of a blur, with much of the focus being taken up by Kara’s birth and first few months, and by the rapid acceleration in Isaac’s knowledge and world-view brought about by starting school. It means Toby has been the victim to some degree of ‘middle-child syndrome’, which has been exacerbated by his generally quiet and introverted demeanour. It’s a horrible thing to have to admit to – it’s not like we deliberately give him less of our attention – but with a needy younger sister and a vocal and demanding older brother that’s how things pan out.

In that sense I suppose it’s fitting that he had a low-key party at the end of what has been something of a low-key year for him. But with Isaac now settled into school and increasingly self-sufficient, and Kara gradually requiring less of our undivided attention, I’m hoping Toby’s fourth year will build on his increasing communication skills and see him really blossom. In the meantime, I’m off to try to fix that blasted ill-fitting toy.