It’s Their Party, and I’ll Cry If I Want To

5 05 2008

Everybody has one of those birthdays: A birthday that will live in infamy because what was supposed to be a celebration of your life ended up making you want to curl up in a ball and die. I’ve had two such birthdays. My 18th birthday disaster involved a quickly consumed pint of gin, my boyfriend cheating on me, and one of my supposed friends threatening to drag me out of a car by the hair and beat me with a baseball bat. But that was peanuts compared to my 4th birthday. Worst birthday ever. That birthday there was a snow storm, and nobody could come to my party. My husband has one of those ‘nobody showed up’ childhood birthdays traumas seared into his memory too. Funny how it’s not the birthdays that are totally wonderful, where all your friends come to your party, where you get awesome presents, where no one threatens to beat you up, that get woven into your life story. It’s the ones that suck that stick in your mind. I am terrified that this weekend, Neener and Roo are headed for one of those birthdays. 

While it seems hard to believe that anything could top last year’s barfday birthday, it looks like that could be the case. For the first time, we have planned a real party. A Garden themed party at a local party room, with loot bags, balloons, decorations and, most importantly, other kids. Up until now, Neener and Roo have only had our adult friends at their birthday parties, which they have thoroughly enjoyed. Lots of great presents, getting to be the complete centres of the party universe, and all the more cake for them to gorge on and barf up at 3 a.m. But this year, they are in school, so in the spirit of inclusion, we diligently made invites for every kid in their class and handed them out a week ago. Today was the RSVP deadline. It said so on the little green construction paper leaf, so carefully affixed to the flower full of details. You’re invited to Neener and Roo’s Birthday Party. Please RSVP by May 5th. Today is that day. And so far, our confirmed guest list stands at a grand total of 3. Four, if you count the big brother of one of the kids. Six if you count the younger siblings that might tag along. Nine if I include the birthday girls and Baby Squiggles. It’s not as bad as a complete no-show, but 3 kids out of 20? Seems a little thin for what was, in my mind, going to be the party of the century. 

This whole birthday party thing has dredged up the awful feeling that my kids have no friends. And really, it’s more than a feeling. It’s a fact. Neither of them has what could be considered friends in school or in the neighbourhood. They have peers. They have acquaintances. They have kids they like, kids they talk about, kids they pretend to play with. But they don’t have any real friends. Most of their social experience has been with adults, so other kids are a mystery to them. I’ve watched them on the playground at school, standing on the periphery talking to the teachers, scratching their backs on tree trunks, stuffing their pockets full of rocks, and quietly observing the other kids running around like a little herd of maniacs. But the little herd of maniacs are all laughing and playing together. My kids – who don’t even play with each other outside of home – are the loners on the playground. And they aren’t even being loners together! Still, you don’t need to be friends with someone to go to their birthday party in kindergarten. You just need your parents to take you there. We invited the whole class, and even made it clear that presents were not necessary, in the hopes that we’d get a decent turn out. I was hoping for a throng of gleefully screaming five year olds to show up, throw some cake, rip up some decorations and shriek out an off-key version of Happy Birthday to my daughters, thus relieving my on-going anxiety that my kids are social misfits. But three kids? Or even six? They couldn’t possibly throw enough cake, rip enough decorations or sing/scream loud enough to ease my mind, and make this party feel like the raging success I’d envisioned. So, it’s on to plan B.

The first part of Plan B is to find more kids. Invites are now extended to kids outside of their class. Kids whose parents I know and like. Kids whose parents I happen to bump into in the next few days. Kids left unattended in the park on the day of the party. The second part of Plan B is to invite more adults. Our friends. The ones Neener and Roo love. The ones who will help it feel more like a party. The ones who will throw cake, rip decorations and scream/sing happy birthday, then come back to our place and drink wine with me. And the third and most important part of Plan B is to stop feeling sorry for myself. When I tallied up the RSVPs in all of 2 minutes this afternoon, my initial reaction was to sulk and cry. Why waste my time and energy blowing up balloons, hanging streamers, making chocolate mud pies and planning garden themed party games for a small handful of kids? Why put together a garden party soundtrack, and blow money on supplies for the flower pot decorating craft activity? And what the hell am I going to do with 20 giant fake bugs, 20 magnifying glasses and sheet after sheet after sheet of butterfly and frog stickers? Why bother with this stupid party idea at all if there aren’t going to be a shitload of kids there to appreciate it? Why? Because when I stop and think about it, I am not doing this party for all those other kids who aren’t even my kids’ friends anyway. I’m doing it for Neener and Roo. I know they will love the balloons, streamers, mud pies, games, music and crafts. I know they will put all the giant bugs and magnifying glasses and stickers to good use. I know they will have just as much fun with a few kids as they would with a bunch of kids. Maybe even more. As long as at least a few people show up, and as long as no one threatens to beat them up, it’ll all be just fine. It won’t be one of those birthdays afterall. And years from now, they won’t remember a single thing about it. But I will. 






6 responses

5 05 2008

Here’s what I figured out after being the social misfit kid for so many years: Find the other social misfit kids and put them all together. Then they can team up.

Basically that’s all that marching band was. 🙂

5 05 2008

BTW, why aren’t you reading Whitterer?

5 05 2008

Oh, I’m reading Whitterer, just haven’t gotten around to updating the ol’ blogroll yet. Thanks!

6 05 2008

We’re coming! We’re coming!

I don’t remember any disappointing birthdays as a kid. That started in high school. The worst was my 25th. Newly in NYC, no friends, Winston had class that night, ate Chinese take-out alone, NOBODY came to my party for which I had baked a cinnemon-chocolate angel food cake from scratch.
But I survived. And my 35th was wonderful. Nathan was 3 days old. My inlaws came from Ottawa to drive us home from the hospital, fed us supper, and left again. My sister-in-law came from Hamilton just to hold Nathan. My mom and sister and her family came, brought meals, flowers, and cake. And probably a present.
Isn’t it funny how these memories stick?

7 05 2008
nanny patterson

Since when did you need more than 2 people to have a party/
You need balloons and cake and icecream and foolishness and games and presents. As far as friends go, maybe if the people that you hold important are there hooting and stomping, numbers don’t mean a thing. besides they’re having another party when they come home with little kids and big kids and frog races and a marshmallow /weinie roast and balloons ,balloons everywhere!

7 05 2008

Nanny .. can I come too?

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