Clay's birthday party was an unqualified success.
There were two primary groups of children there: loud, rambunctious 4-to-6-year-old boys and louder, squealing-and-shrieking 10-to-12-year-old girls. Almost all of the other children were strangers to Bud. And yet there he was in the thick of things - engaged, smiling, and extraordinarily well-regulated.
He was so well-regulated, in fact, that when the boys' sledding activity turned into a game of human obstacle course he laughed as boys hurled themselves in front of his sled as it sped down the hill, resulting in a jumble of boy arms and boy legs and boy faces covered in snow. He waited patiently for his turn as five boys shared two sleds, and he asked other boys "is it my turn now?" He was unphased when, without warning, Clay jumped onto his sled as it zipped by and held tightly onto Bud's back and they flew down the hill together. He didn't even seem to notice the mayhem that ensued as the girls attacked the boys in a snowball fight that continued until Clay's mom noticed and started ushering them all inside.
He didn't seem to notice. But once they were inside and he had the sleds and the hill to himself he turned to me with a twinkle in his eye and gathered up a mitten full of snow. "I throw at you," he said tossing the flakes of snow toward me in a gentle flurry. "I got you, Mama!"
Inside, Bud took lots of breaks from the crowd and made his way to the playroom where he discovered an electronic keyboard. "Look, everybody!" he shouted down the stairs. "It's Bud's Dance Party!" He played happily upstairs, sometimes on his own and sometimes among a squall of shrieking children. But he joined the group quite a bit as well. He played Pin the Nose on the Snowman - blindfold, spinning, and all. He joined the group for singing Happy Birthday and eating ice cream. He had a perfectly wonderful time, and when it was time to go he protested: "But I want to stay at the party! I want to stay at Clay's house!" Clay's mom promised that he could come back another day, and he grudgingly agreed to leave.
What a milestone we've reached. The best part is that Bud knows it. He's been talking about the party since we left, reminiscing about Bud's Dance Party, jumping on my back to recreate Bud And Clay's Excellent Sled Adventure, blowing his party blower till he just can't blow no more. There's a new aura of confidence around Bud these days. And why not? After all, he's a kid who goes to parties.