A rant about the birthday party plans for my two-year-old

I’ll be the first to admit it – I can’t seem to throw my son a low-key birthday party. I didn’t write about this topic here last year because I was embarrassed at the extravaganza that was my son’s first birthday party.  Now, I didn’t go to the lengths that these parents did to entertain my child ($38K, c’mon!), but I did rent out a party space, hire entertainment and feed my guests smoked salmon.  It all worked out well, but after an undisclosed sum later, I swore up and down that we would tone it down for next year.

But my son’s birthday is around the corner again, and I am finding myself in a similar situation.  I’ve booked a venue, a cute playroom where they have music and singalongs, and I decided on a menu, albeit one that is more appropriate for a two-year-old vs. a 60-year-old.  I’ve talked to a party coordinator at the facility (what theme do I want? Huh? No Elmo?) and am currently working on goodie bags. I thought about having the party at our house, but when I figured out the cost of hiring someone to clean up cake and grease off our walls I figured it was worth the extra money to outsource kiddie clean up to someone else.

I even spent time and energy in selecting the right invitation.  One of my friends is in the invitation business so we were able to mix a play date with some serious stationery shopping. (The options for kids’ birthday party invites are tremendous – it took me over an hour and two episodes of Dora to finalize it.) I tried to keep the invite list short of course, as we all do with weddings and bar mitzvahs, but when you have to include everyone in your preschool class (it’s the rule and probably a good one), your husband’s business associates, your two playgroups and other old friends, it can get unruly. Unfortunately, my “perfect” venue charges extra per child after the first 15.  I was a bit miffed about that but only realized it after I sent out 45 invites. By my crude math that would mean I’d have to get a 33% response rate to make my minimum quota.  That might be good for a random marketer’s survey, but no mom only wants a third of her son’s friends to show up to the party. Well, at least not this mom.

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Yes, my tongue was very dry after licking all these envelopes.

I never pictured myself as a mom who would ever engage in such behavior.  I can’t believe I’m actually thinking about ALL MY FRIENDS who haven’t RSVP’d yet, but I have to admit it – this birthday party thing is actually FUN. Knowing my son will be hamming it up with 20 30 of his closest friends makes me giddy. Even if he doesn’t quite get that he’s going to be two years old.  Figuring out the music and the celebration routine for the party is cute. I realize that this all probably sounds like a little much to the rest of the world, but I don’t yet feel that things are that out of hand. (Ok, maybe the super-sized invitations weren’t normal, but I digress.) I mean, it’s not like I’m getting that crazy triple-tier-Sesame-Street thing-y that I saw in the fancy bakery window the other day. Cake is actually one place where I refuse to go over the top. The sheet cake from Jewel is incredibly yummy.

Plus, all my mom friends and I have fun attending each others’ parties. We laugh and gossip and it gives us something to do on a Sunday morning in March.  Hell, I most of us don’t work anymore, so we need something to do. (That was a joke. Not the work part, the needing something to do part.)So I guess what I am saying is, I don’t think it’s that bad to throw your child a bit of an indulgent birthday party if you want and have the means to. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with 20 30 kids playing, dancing to music and laughing even if it costs me an extra $50. I like the fact that my son has some peers to celebrate and learn from. I’m not saying that I will do this every year, but as long as it remains enjoyable for me my son, I’m going to keep doing it.

And it sure beats the heck out of trying to get pizza sauce stains out of my carpet, don’t you think?

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Note: I did NOT under any circumstances hire a party planner for my son’s birthday. It just so happened that on staff at the venue where we’re having the party is a “birthday coordinator” who helps you arrange food delivery, etc.  You couldn’t pay me to do that job.

It could be worse

As I sit here feeling bad for myself for various things, like missing my son’s pre-pre-pre school class because I’m working, I remind myself that things could be worse. A lot worse.

I could live in a society where play dates are akin to being invited to the royal court and being on the outs results in murder.

At least I have one less thing to complain about today.

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Saturday morning pick-me-up

coffee-cup.jpgI really wasn’t looking cute this morning when I decided to go for a walk around my neighborhood. I hadn’t washed my hair since Thursday morning, and the only outfit I could muster up early  were some old workout leggings and an adidas sweatshirt.  But the weather was nice so I figured it was a good opportunity to move my tush. Plus I’m always trying to figure out ways to kill the time before my son’s first nap.

After walking for a good 40 minutes (aren’t you proud?) I was in desperate need of some caffeine. My son was in desperate need to get out of his stroller. Enter Starbucks, a stone’s throw from my house (aren’t I lucky?) where I go every Saturday and Sunday morning to get my chai latte sugar rush. (I keep wondering when my teeth are going to rot out of my head.) My local Starbucks is typically filled with kids at all times on all days.  Saturday mornings, though, are like a Mommy and Me class on steroids, but with better music.

The perfect backdrop at my lame attempt to make a new mom friend. I usually don’t pay any attention to the madness at Starbucks. My mission is usually to get my tea and get out of there fast enough so my son doesn’t notice those little madeleine cookies that they put right next to the cash register close enough for any kid with halfway decent dexterity to grab and shove into his mouth so you have to buy them every time. Ok, maybe that’s just my kid.

But today I couldn’t help but notice a cute young woman in front of me in line. And she noticed me and my son, who was putting on quite a hello and goodbye show. I ordered my drink, paid and waited and waited for my tea.  We then started up a conversation. We were standing pretty close as to hear each other better. I think she initiated it, but I can’t quite recall.

“Hi, how old is your son?”
“Oh, he’s about 13 months.”
“Oh, I’ve got an 8-month-old in the car.”
“Boy or girl?”
“Boy”
“Oh, cute. Name?”
“C.”
“C? I haven’t heard that before.” (Doh! Great line, Sara)
“Yeah, well, I guess this is what we have to look forward to in a few months.”
“Yes, it’s so fun. It goes by so fast.” (Could I get any more cliche??)
“How long have you lived in Roscoe Village? This is our first summer.
“Oh, it’ll be 2 years in July, so I guess this is our third!”
“Oh, nice.”
“Yeah. Hey, do you go to the park at Belmont and Damen?”
“Yeah.”
“Well, it’s a great park, so maybe I’ll see you there.” (Was I supposed to ask for a number at this point?)
“Sounds good. My name is K.” (She tried to shake my hand but I was already holding a kid, madeline cookie and tea in my hands. Hello?)
“Sara. Nice to meet you. Have a good day.”

And then I remembered I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet. Shit.

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A mobster in the making

sopranos.jpgI’ve never considered myself the “gangster” type (although I do look cute in a fedora hat). But after reading a recent article on MSNBC.com I’m wondering if I should change my blog’s name to the “Self-Made Mobster.”

The article focuses on how having babies can alter a woman’s friendships. An excerpt:

As lives evolve, so do priorities. Some childless women complain their friends with children turn into mommy machines — always wanting to talk about their babies and resembling very little of their former fun selves.

Who, me? Not fun anymore? The article then interviewed a woman, Lisa Giassa, who saw many of her friends get sucked into what she calls a “mommy mafia.”  She says:

“All they do is talk — more like complain — about their kids, their husbands, dramas with teachers and other mommy mafia members.”

Upon further reading of the “mommy mafia” type, it seems that I am not only a member, but could easily be a reputable gang leader.  I organize play groups, complain about my son, talk about my husband, and more often than not, go days without calling my non-mom friends back or give them only specific times that I can talk. No wonder they’ve stopped calling.  I wouldn’t want to be associated with me either. 

I’ve become dangerous.  I participate in the organized crimes of kvetching about my son’s first birthday plans or how tired I am.  Come too close to me, and you’ll be shot with a tirade of the woes of working motherhood.  If you make plans with me, we usually have to meet in a location where I’m comfortable and on my terms. In my inner sanctum are those who have been through the pains of labor and kiddie puke.

When you’re in such a position of power, greed and selfishness you can lose sight of reality. (Wait, I missed your wedding?). So how do I get out? I’m not sure. Becoming a mom IS like joining an exclusive gang that goes way beyond just hand signals and tatoos.  I probably could do a better job of maintaining my contacts with the outside.  But I’m not convinced that being a part of the mommy mafia is a bad thing.  I think it just means that my connections and the way I work is different now.  I’ll try to do better, I really will.  But if I don’t succeed, well then, I’m going to just Fuhgeddaboutit.

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Don’t start the revolution without me

And you thought office politics were bad.  I’m in the middle of a play group coup d’etat. The play group I put my heart and soul into creating during my maternity leave is currently caught in a management overhaul. And I’m the management getting overthrown.  Apparently during one of the groups that I couldn’t attend a decision was made to switch our play dates from people’s homes to a gym class. And not just any old class, but a class that I tried the week before where my son cried at the teacher’s shrill voice (ok, he’s a bit of a wuss, but still.). The decision was made by two alpha NMFs of the group whose kids are older and more mobile. The decision was made behind the scenes. No outside consultants were engaged. Boom- one day, an innocent email went out and then play group as we knew it was over.

But why demand change now? Why rock the 3 month detailed calendar I created which had the play dates set through November? Why pay to sit at a smelly gym and watch my not-yet-crawling son cry at the teacher? NMFs I ask you- are we not engaging enough? Is the carpet on our floors not soft enough? Do we not have enough toys?

One of the other underlings in the group called me shortly after we received notice of the change in direction of our play group.  We comiserated at the loss of innocence, the new focus of our organization, the shleping we’d have to endure.  So what’d we do next? Called the gym and signed up.