Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's A Party and I'll Cry if I Want To

Another year, and the story grows older.

I'm thinking about giving up parties as a New Year's resolution. I actually love parties. I just can't handle taking my kids to them.

When the rooster was 23 months old, we took him to a birthday party at a park. Already we told anyone who would listen that our boy seemed more challenging to contain than every other child we knew, more willful, less engaged, somewhat dangerous, and we were well-aquainted with the scoffing, dismissing, mocking, and eye rolling. We meaning me. Of course.

Anyway, so we go to this party, disheveled and disoriented from not sleeping for two years and from managing constant, willful energy, and with a brand new baby as well. We lasted about three or four minutes maybe of niceties, and the rooster was off and running. Literally -- he ran in enormous circuits through fields and around the park. Poor J had the job of corralling him, or chasing him, or just making apologies to the picknickers and park visitors that the rooster overran, because I had a 5 week old baby with me. We used her as our out and left as early as possible, overwhelmed, scared, freaked out. By we I mean me. Of course.

I remember getting in the car, and asking J, "Did it sort of blow you away to see all the other kids sitting on the blanket quietly, happily eating snacks, seeming so... nice?" J looked at me with some of that scoffing and dismissing I referred to earlier. "NO, honey, come on. Our boy is almost two. Haven't you heard of the terrible twos? When all of those kids are two they'll probably do the exact same thing."

I didn't know the right way to say this to him: "Uh, J. Those kids? They are all two."

Our friends are Korean. J just looked at me. "No they aren't," he said. "They were just itty bitty little kids." But it was dawning on him, I could see it. I hated breaking it to him.

"J, just because they don't look like our pale, blonde, 95th percile-sized child, doesn't mean they aren't two. I know for a fact that all of those children are his age exactly."

We rode in silence for a while.

We have remembered and recounted that day many times.

Today we went to a little girl's first birthday party at yet another park. This is actually our favorite park, so we figured that would work out nicely - it is one of those built for all abilities, a highly accessible park where we've enjoyed several recent successful outings. It was a lovely party and I tried extremely hard to just be in the moment, enjoy, and not compare. How well do you think I did?

This little ray of sunshine turning one year old beamed at her party. She had a blast. She didn't need to be held, she walked with confidence, she smiled at the camera, she clapped for herself when she got her cupcake and people sang. Wow, nothing like either of my children's first birthdays, though both were held at similar parks with similar guests and similar food. That was almost enough to bum me out. But much worse: the rooster ran in giant circles through this park today, trying to lose us, ignoring our words, screaming, and he eventually hit another boy in the face because the boy responded to the rooster's nose-to-nose demands to play together by saying, "No, I don't want to play with you, you are a stranger." And no, I am not comforted that the Rooster initiated play with the boy. Not comforted. He hit the boy in the face.

Peaches, for all her NT ways, didn't behave much better, trying to pry the cupcakes from the box from the moment we arrived, and throwing a screaming, spitting fit when I took the rooster to the restroom for a diaper change and -- God forbid -- left her with daddy, and about two dozen friends for five minutes.

We hightailed it out of there. My husband, who sees all things as brightly as I see them dark, who cannot be brought down, barely had the car in reverse before he said, "I just want you to know. I am grumped out. I'm sorry, but I am. Sometimes it just all hits me, you know?" He said part of his grumpiness came from thinking about his coming work day, but as we talked, what kept coming up was the struggle we have dealing with the challenges facing our family. I completely understood.

When we came home, Peaches asked to see photos of her from her own birthday parties. I pulled out the albums. We worked our way backward through time, starting with her second birthday, then going all the way back to my baby shower when I was carrying the rooster. Who was that young, bright, shiny girl?!!!! Wow, I like her hair, and I wish I had it now, but I don't think I knew it at the time! Her skin looked nice...

The only way I'm going to make it to any more birthdays is to find a way to connect with my sense of gratitude and joy. So, in an effort to do just that, here is what I'm grateful for:

- The rooster's language continues to blossom in astonishing ways. Hard to believe that in the spring we wondered if he'd ever ask or answer questions.
- Peaches gives the sweetest kisses in the whole world.
- My friend S just had a very scary operation. She rebounded like a super star! She'll be on bed rest for a month, but I saw her and she looks amazing.
- I have the sweetest husband in the entire world. We cooked breakfast together today. Eggs and gfcf waffles. He made sure I had time to jog, even though it meant he didn't get time for a haircut. He compliments me wildly. I love him.
- My mom sent me my grandma's flatware. While it is not something we ever would have picked out, I love eating with it. I grew up eating with it. It feels like having her here. I think she got it in the forties. It's a collector's item. I love having it. I put it in place of our stuff today and it felt right.
- Today I downloaded a free app on my iPhone so I now can listen to my local NPR station on my phone. I jogged today and never even got bored! NPR! I love it! Oh how I've been missing it as we've listened to all the rooster's books on tape!
- Did I mention I started jogging again? A woman 25 years older than I am passed me, but hey, calorie burning is calorie burning, and I need to burn me some calories. It's time to lose that 10 extra pounds I've been dragging around for almost three years, and it's good to be jogging again.
- My friends are very cool. Thank you, cool friends.


mama edge said...

Over the years, I too suffered many horrible party experiences. But lately, things are much nicer because most of my boys' guests are on the spectrum. We may celebrate a bit differently (e.g. we have a quiet room, I hire a respite worker to help, I offer GFCF options for those on that diet), bu the boys and their guests are finally on the same page!

This post was, by the way, really beautifully written. You rock.

redheadmomma said...

Yeah, parties. They're little bits of torture to me, personally. You know what? I try very hard not to take my kids to the park, because there's something not so good about the lack of boundaries - physical - for the kids. My stress level gets way too high. It's probably double stress for you that you have no control over the location of the party.

And it sucks to be sitting there as a family and coming face to face with a bad experience. But it passes rather quickly, and there is so much beauty & joy in your family, and in all families. Much of which you captured in your awesome list. I think my favorite is your grandma's flatware. I am a staunch believer that things are "living" because we attach memories to them, and they either bring you good memories or they don't. With the whole point being to increase the good things and sending out the things that bring you bad memories.

Niksmom said...

So sorry about the party and the face hitting. :-(

But I adore that you are finding the good in things! :-)

Holly said...


I'm not sure if this will make you feel better but my kids were invited to so few b-day parties, and if we were invited, my daughter would get naked, lick the cake...etc.etc.etc.

Anonymous said...

First off. Ten pounds? You only need to lose TEN POUNDS??? I think this might just possibly disqualify you as my friend. But we'll see.

As for the anguish surrounding parties, I hear you. It sounds like our boys are kind of opposites, but parties are hard for us too. Our little guy often refuses to take part in any of the "fun" stuff of parties. He won't eat around other people, he clings to us, and he's generally irritated by the other kids. It sucks. BIG.

I'm sorry this was a tough one for you, but glad that you, like me, have an awesome and supportive hubby. It helps a little, huh?

Hang in there!