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S’bin a while, I know. The matchsticks I’m propping my eyelids open with keep snapping.

Harry, Caesar, Praefectus, Princeps, Imperator, etc, turned three on Monday and was carted by his adoring mother and grandmother to a theme park that was quite ridiculously old for him, but featured Thomas (the Tank Engine) Land. The crowds were monstrous oppressive and Harry did badly in the resulting ride queues – no surprise. We went on one ride, plus a trip on the Actual Real Proper Thomas Himself (shssshh!) that was oddly queueless.

We toured the zoo and the climbing frames twice, and, taken all in all I think he enjoyed himself.

Mother & I, however, walked out of there several decades older. We lost him. Twice.

The first time, we were in a closed soft-play area

with a member of staff on the door, which slightly mitigated my unease when he vanished off the play frame. After a couple of minutes I asked the resident staff member to search the frame for a little boy with a black t-shirt and brown trousers (I have a deliberate policy of putting Harry in primary colours on trips to public places. Planning FAIL.) as parents were verboten. Which wouldn’t have stopped me going on to look for him, as such, but the majority of the frame was fairly visible from the ground. I searched the toilets. Mum searched the toilets. I asked the door guard. I began to fight down the panic and the visions of a small crumpled body at the bottom of a drop… or his neck caught up in a rope net and hanging…

You don’t want an imagination like mine, I assure you. It is not altogether a blessing.

Suddenly, he appeared like the genie of the bloody lamp, waving a cushion from the tiny toddlers area, under which he had evidently happily concealed himself.

Little bugger. Sigh.

The second time was… worse. Oh, so very much worse. He disappeared around a wooden climbing frame to re-climb the steps… and didn’t appear at the top. After a few seconds – 10? 15? – I wheeled the pushchair around the frame, surveyed the surrounding 30 to 40ft and – nothing. Vanished. Total Lord Lucan. 

Of course, black and brown really stand out against a double row of 100-yds of wooden climbing frames,

especially when there are hundreds of galloping, climbing, bouncing kids, skittering about in frenetic Brownian motion in front of you. (This photo was taken much earlier, when the place was virtually deserted.) I started off puzzled, moved swiftly through sinking unease and alarm, and rapidly reached heart-in-mouth stage.

I abandoned the pushchair, stationed Mum at the nominal exit area – horribly aware that if someone had taken him, they could be out and a fair way off, by now – and ran round like a demented hamster looking high and low, but it was chockablock with kids and I could see nothing. I started to scream his name, aware that A) there were probably a dozen or more Harrys looking up at me, B) he wouldn’t hear me if he was concentrating on clambering and C) he wouldn’t respond usefully even if he did.

Eventually – and I couldn’t tell you how long it was after he disappeared, only that I had time to die several times – I caught sight of him crawling into a tunnel. I dived after him like a chubby kingfisher and hauled him unceremoniously off the playframe (how I didn’t actually puke on him in sheer relief, I don’t quite know) before proceeding to give him what was not only the loudest shouty-bollocking of his entire life, but also, the most thoroughly undeserved.

Because I’ve never told him to stay close to me, or to make sure he can see me. He doesn’t know what ‘lost’ means; I’ve never explained the word to him. He doesn’t look behind him, he doesn’t seek reassurance, and he’s overwhelmingly self-assured because he knows I’m always there. Watching. The one place I let him roam out of sight is our local softplay barn because I know he can manage all the equipment – and I’m always between him and the gated exit. He’s growing up confident in his own abilities and secure in the knowledge that he’s never, ever come looking for me and not found me straightaway. Great!

Consequently, I imagine his bollocking came as an incomprehensible and puzzling surprise to him. Poor lad. He’d crumpled sadly into chastened tears by the time I’d returned to Mum and she’d retrieved the pushchair – not quite where I’d left it, I noted, absently; a fact which made sense later when I realised that his lovely, favourite dinosaur sunhat had been stolen off it.

*short pause, while we all wish haemorrhoids with infection complications on the perpetrator*

I had lost the will to slog on after that, and Harry was clearly tired – and upset! – so we left, and it will be some years before anyone gets me back there again. 

Harry’s party, on the other hand was lots of fun, and unmarred by aggravation, although there was a tricky time when New Toys were shown to Harry but he was prevented from actually touching them Immediately, Straight Away, This Minute, SERIOUSLY, LEMME AT ‘EM RIGHT NOW!

All the very best 2 year olds and 0 year olds attended, as well as a very honoured (more in the breach than the observance, as it turned out!) guest who had celebrated a very special birthday a leetle larger than 3 a couple of days previously, and had come all the way from Australia to do so – and had then driven the ball-breaker from Chester and back simply to come to Harry’s party. I’m not quite sure how we would have managed without her, but she tackled Miles Behind Party Prep like a bona fide hero. Harry was, sadly, insensible of the nature of the honour of all these far-flung guests, both toddler and adult – all of whom I managed to converse with not nearly enough, which was rather a pisser – but his mother was supremely touched and happy they were there, nevertheless.

(I had, in fact, done rather better with my bloggy visitors the day before, being able to devote several hours to a door-passing May and H, who are not only always an immense pleasure to see, but whom I now know so well that I no longer feel I have to render myself stressed by cleaning up before they arrive…)

So. I know you want cake photos, yes?

I had a demanding client brief, involving much signing of ‘tractor’, ‘digger’ and audible ‘choo-choo!’s. I couldn’t quite see how to incorporate all of these, initially, until inspiration struck. I was pleased with the end result, although leaving the elaborately-constructed chocolate collars

(designed to conceal the box forming the tunnel) in the fridge at home (along with 2 large cheese & pineapple ‘hedgehogs’, 80 cocktail sausages and 2 pots of houmous)

narked me off, rather.

The crane, tractor, digger and battery-driven train were all new, hence his sudden and desperate eagerness to pounce on them.

Waiting until the end of Happy Birthday nearly finished the poor lad off.

And my baby is now 3.

3!

Christ. Stop now, please.

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16 Responses

  1. Happy Birthday Harry!

    You do realise that these truly fabulous cake creations make the rest of us feel utterly inadequate? I have to hide the screen to make sure certain soon to be 4 yr olds don’t get any ideas which I will be completely unable to follow through on. Harry is one lucky boy.

  2. Happy Birthday Little Harry (from my “big” H who will turn 6 in only two more weeks …and my even bigger K who will turn 8 in a few sleeps ).

    …and the getting lost thing … welll …you just reminded me to write my mobile number on the kid’s arms in indelible ink lest they get lost tomorrow whilst at our “Show” (aka the Ekka- biggest gig in town).

  3. I’ve had a couple of the “where in the hell did that kid go?” incidents on playsets. If I don’t come out of her childhood with PTSD, I will be very surprised.

    Wow. What an awesome cake! So, let me pick your creative brain, then…how would you incorporate both princesses and superheroes (most likely, Spiderman) onto a little girl’s birthday cake? When I mentioned that idea to another mom from my girl’s daycare, the woman looked at me like I was crazy.

    Happy Birthday, Harry! Please stop growing up so fast!

    • I think spiderman (can easily be a plastic spiderman!) climbing up a wall (cake) to rescue Princess Something (plastic) could be the way forward! Wall can be a castle if you want to get elaborate, and could make Spidey shoot strawberry laces from his webby thing. Ooer…

      Doing actual figure cakes makes me hurt in several places, mainly my brain and my back. Much better to use plastic props!

  4. Ah, Thomas and his Friends always make me a little verklempt. My now-17yo loved loved LOVED Thomas when he was Harry’s age and we had a couple of the videos with Ringo Starr as narrator, giving me the only 3yo in Arkansas who used, “Brilliant!” on a regular basis.

    That cake is awesome, btw.

  5. Wonderful cake–a tunnel, even…! Glad to see Harry wasn’t upset by all the swirly-faced pod children attending 😉 That crane is AWESOME and it’s a very good thing my own 3+ can’t see it or I would never heard the end of it.

    I will volunteer the hopes that maybe a child pushed around Harry’s stroller and made off with the hat. It’s definitely the sort of thing my child would do, without meaning any harm. Otherwise, ugh, what is wrong with people?

    Most of all, congratulations to both Harry and you two; as a parent it’s both a joy and achievement to see your child turn age 3!

  6. You. Are. Awesome.

    My mouth is watering just looking at that cake.

    And how … ahem … wonderful that you have raised a child with no attachment issues.

  7. CAKE! CAKE! CAKE!

    *cough*. Sorry. Your baking affects me like that.

    The disappearing Harry thing. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Makes me feel all sweaty only reading about it AFTER the event with all ending well.

  8. It was an honour to be invited to H’s birthday party. I have started a scrapbook for Tiger and the first thing I’ve put in it is his own personalised party bag with an explanation of where it came from. It was lovely to go full circle as well, back to the pub I went in when I was 3 minutes pregnant.

    The losing Harry story made me want to wretch, my heart was racing. Thank goodness all was well.

  9. Also an honour to help you all celebrate the Big Three. And to eat cake. MMMM, cake! Was yummy.

    I lost #1 son at the Smithsonian in Washington at only a year older. All the same feelings multiplied by every American crime show ever watched. Glad it was simple toddler-on-the-move-at-warp-speed for you.

    Now Thomas and Lost are inextricably linked you will have to come up with other plans for future outings.

  10. Happy Birthday Harry! (a wee bit late)

    What a fabulous cake. And my heart stopped as well as I read about Harry taking off like that. Ugh. My middle son once left the grocery store by himself and was found walking around the parking lot by one of the store’s employees. And I know I have a story about losing my oldest son once, but I must have blocked the painful memory. I guess I’m just trying to say that we’ve all been there, and know exactly how you feel.

    Okay, that’s enough blabbering. 😉

  11. It was a lovely party, and we enjoyed ourselves enormously, at least until we got into stationary traffic on the M40 and Pob announced she wanted to do a poo…

    Thank you so much for having us.

  12. Btw, I investigated the radio tracking type wrist bands and figured they are not worth how much they cost. If someone was going to abduct a child presumably they’d get rid of any device instantly. And the abiliy to track a child in a public place with some beeping thing didn’t seem necessary to me, although might to you. But is it £1000 a year worth? But I did buy one of the below, for trips like the one you describe. Gives me just a little peace of mind when Pob has disappeared into a crowd AGAIN.

    http://www.theidbandco.com/Home.aspx?ct=1&subcat=False

    Btw (2), 5-7 children a year are abducted in the UK. Has been steady for about 25 years.

  13. This is the most PHENOMENAL cake I have ever seen! Surely the cake gods shine on thee. How on earth are you going to face his fourth birthday??? They can’t just get better and better all the time — there are LIMITS, woman. Oh, and a very happy birthday to Harry. It seems he must be blessed with the laws-of-engineering-defying traits of his mum to get so thoroughly lost twice in one day. Looks like you’ve got a happy Houdini on your hands. Well, happy for him, anyway! Three cheers for Harry and you.

  14. (How did I miss this?)
    I am an ancient crone after just *reading* it. You poor two.

    Lovely party! And cake! REALLY FAB CAKE.
    Ooh, I am so annoyed not to have met the boy in question last week. ARG!

    Three. Three! My goodness.

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