Loud sing cuckoo?
Eleven years ago this evening, I was hanging out in a hospital room waiting for this labour thing to get going already. It did, I became a mom as a result, and tomorrow we get to celebrate my son’s continued trip around the planet. All awesome.
But for me, a birthday is a day, not an Event. I look forward to it as chance to celebrate my child’s existence, and a chance to look back at how far we have already come together. It includes a meal entirely composed of the child’s favourite foods, a couple of new toys, and maybe a helium balloon.
[For reference, I would like to point out here that when I got married, the total cost for the wedding was about $1500. We had a dress, a cake, and a minister, not a barefoot barbeque on the beach – but I am not missing a zero.]
That being said, you will be unsurprised to hear that I am unwilling (and unable) to spend hundreds of dollars on a two-hour standardized party with Far Too Many gifts, junk food, and rushing, rushing, rushing to eat, open presents and get out before the next standardized party starts on the hour. We still have a party, but we have almost always held it at home. We invite actual friends, not the whole class. We allow the kids to open the gifts a little earlier in the party so that the guests and birthday child have a chance to play together with the new items. You know… a party. Get a few people together with food and activities and a party will break out. That’s my philosophy of socialization.
Unfortunately, this approach is so atypical that the two times that we did invite the whole class, only two of them came. I don’t know whether they are not allowed to come because of our crazy hippie predilections, whether their parents are uncomfortable with home parties, or whether my kids are following in my footsteps and are just desperately unpopular. I try not to let my own ego get in the way here, but I find myself lying awake and fighting nausea every time I think about it.
How did it get to this? Why, oh why isn’t it enough any more to invite the three or four kids that your children play with? When did dinner, a board game, pin-the-tail on the donkey, and various silly games get replaced with hired clowns, bouncy tents and McDonalds paraphenalia? GAH!
Phew. OK. Time for some deep breathing and a reality check. In all honestly, my daughter didn’t actually notice that only two of her classmates turned up last year. There are nine of us living at our house. As soon as we add one other family, we’ve got a party. If we import three extra kids of appropriate age and sentiment and throw in a handful of pink and purple toys, The Daughter will turn it into a glitter-fest sparkle extravaganza (even for the boys). Left to her own devices, she will also drag those three kids out back to the mudpile no matter how pretty their dresses are. If we are lucky, nobody gets into the chicken coop/poop. Fun is had by all.
So why do I let it bother me so much?
I think it is the time of the year that I most fear that my children may wind up paying the price for my weirdness. I don’t want to be that hippie mom from the Jane Austen Book Club – you know, the one that scars her children for life, doesn’t learn to grow up and take responsibility, embarasses them and lets them bear the brunt of her choices. That’s not fair.
But at the same time, I can’t live my life through/for my kids. I can’t be that other mom either – the one who erases herself for the sake of the children, who gives unconditionally… you know. The Good Mom. The perfect mom.
So here’s my birthday pledge to my children: Boy. I love you a lot. But I can’t be The Good Mom; I can only be the good-enough mom. I’m not willing to buy your love back. My love for you does not scale with expenditures. It does not include erasing myself. And it will probably never include the standardized party. And even though you’ll probably never read this, I hope that the good enough party with the good enough presents and the good enough mom lets you know: I love you enough not to spoil you.