Yesterday while walking through the park and around the lake, I had another one of those episodes where somehow just putting in my ear buds and grooving to my raunchy yet oddly motivating booty music seemed to put me in my own little world. It’s really a bizarre character flaw and not nearly as cool as when the Potter kids throw on their invisibility cloak, though it works in a similar fashion. The loud thumping in my ears somehow hinders proper brain function and makes me think I’m invisible to the lowly peons around me. It happens at the gym all the time. Well, not that I’m actually AT the gym all the time. I just mean that when I AM there, it’s likely to happen and thoughts fly out of my mouth aloud. I know this happens because I’ve gotten weird looks from people right after they’ve gotten in my way and I’ve thought to “myself” how annoying they are. Barring the possibility that they are actual mind readers, it’s highly likely that irritated sighs and sounds escape from my mouth. My sister thinks I’m crazy. I think it’s funny. I need the music to keep me going anyway so there isn’t much of a choice and alone with my private thoughts (hell, maybe not so private if my thoughts become vocalized) I sometimes make sense of things in today’s hectic life.

As on any beautiful weekend day, the park was packed. There were hippies playing frisbee, couples sitting in the shade and on park benches, old men sitting along the seawall in their folding chairs with their fishing poles, boats launching, family reunions under the pavilions, and birthday parties. This Saturday night in addition to the flock of seagulls, there was a wedding party and groups of high school kids each with its own set of paparazzi taking pictures in front of the fountain all dolled up in their fancy gowns. So I ran. I ran so far away. I ran all night and day. I couldn’t get away. (Well, maybe I walked, but if I said that then you wouldn’t get the whole Flock of Seagulls song reference would you??) I didn’t want my picture snapped sans makeup in my funky sweat gear and ball cap photobombing all the beautiful people and becoming immortalized in family albums for years to come. I remember thinking when I saw the children’s birthday parties how I often wish my social set here would occasionally take things back to a simpler time when kiddie parties were simply cake and ice cream with pin the tail on the donkey.

Nowadays, things seem to be so much more complicated often resulting in unnecessary stress and expense. There are petting zoos and princess themes with teams of divas that show up at your house like Extreme Home Makeover to transform your daily “drab” inferior interior into a party fit for a queen but most importantly… the other parents. Look, I love those parties and the truth is, many people ENJOY throwing those kinds of parties so I don’t want to sound like one of the bitter people who simply can’t keep up and feels they must. I do think though that for the parents out there who feel discouraged and max out the credit cards trying to be the ultimate hosts and hostesses, maybe they should take a step back and think about what really matters and what it is their own children would really be comfortable with having. True, my own little ones attend these parties and want the equivalent, but perhaps they just haven’t been to enough of the simple ones where all they need is a bathing suit and sprinkler. Here’s what’s gone through MY mind when considering these options when money’s been tight:

  • Maybe my kid will feel like he’s the poor kid on the block – like the one who’s mama actually MAKES him where a homemade superhero costume on Halloween while Flash Gordon over there has real working light up stuff that shoots lasers or something at the big kids who get in his way of the candy. (GREAT! Now I’ve got Halloween anxiety which is quickly approaching after talking about my birthday party anxiety. 😦 )
  • Maybe if I don’t provide enough food for all the little children AND their parents, people will starve and kids will start asking their parents, “Where’s the pizza, Mama?” right in front of me so that I have to run and call Papa John like that was really the plan all along and give him my credit card so nobody passes out or worse… TALKS ABOUT ME!
  • Maybe if I go the cheap route and do it at home none of the kids will come. See, maybe their parents are kinda shy – or even bitchy – and feel uncomfortable having to sit on my couch with a bunch of other parents until all the cake has been eaten and the presents have been opened. That’s just awkward for some people and I TOTALLY get it. Maybe for them, sitting around on the backyard patio with all the properly coiffed mamas feels like high school all over again wondering which lunch table to sit at.
  • Maybe I need to casually walk my kid to and from class every morning and every afternoon instead of carpool line and chit-chat with the parents so that the new ones get to know me and think I’m friendly and won’t avoid the party because they don’t know any of the other parents.
  • Maybe some of these people can’t afford the barrage of parties every weekend and the presents that accompany them. I don’t want to make them feel like they HAVE to go, but I really WANT them to go just so my own kid doesn’t get disappointed that so-and-so from class isn’t there. (Don’t even get me STARTED now on the expense of birthday party presents every weekend when you’re trying to mask the fact that you’re flat broke at this particular stage in your life but are trying to please your own kids by allowing them to attend and the birthday kids by not disappointing them)

I remember last year when a friend of mine went through a similar dilemma. She was on a strict budget with three little ones and was pregnant with her fourth while her husband was serving overseas. These moms get my applause on a daily basis but ESPECIALLY when trying to throw together a birthday party all by themselves. I couldn’t remember all of the details this morning so I asked her about it. She actually had to ask WHICH party “disaster” I was referring to from this year. Was it the one where she stopped to pick up pizza and ice cream making her late for the party and arrived home with the only key to find the guests waiting in the front yard in the middle of January in COLORADO? Or was it the other one that she posted about on Facebook where hardly any kids showed? Damn! I felt bad for her, but I remember TONS of people commenting on her status and fessing up to trying to keep up with other PARENTS when what really mattered was the CHILDREN. She did a great job and her little man was happy which was really all that mattered. This is what she posted when she felt discouraged and all of  the festivities were complete:

Threw the world’s lamest birthday party this afternoon. But the guest of honor was happy so it wasn’t a total flop. My house was a mess. I took a nap instead of making cupcakes. (Luckily there were enough gluten-free ones that my friend brought for her son with Celiac to go around for all the kids.) We sang him happy birthday but there were no candles to blow out. He probably set the world record for speed-opening of gifts – all 6 in under 75(?) seconds. Then he played his new Wii games while ignoring all his guests.

I woke this morning to another old friend’s pictures from her son’s birthday party on Facebook. SHUT UP!!! I had no idea they still have birthday parties at McDonald’s. Are you KIDDING ME?!?! It looked like she had a few close friends for her son’s 5th birthday party and all those sweet little booboos wear wearing party hats and big ‘ol smiles. Not a grimace was to be found (and I DID look for that big purple blob. What IS he anyway??) I had a couple of birthday parties at Mickey D’s myself and lots of my friends did too. I have memories of the that chocolate cake with Ronald on top and the whipped icing with sprinkles. I still remember hand clapping to the all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun song. Who did NOT climb to the top of that big hamburger jail that used to be on all of the playgrounds and bounce on those spring-loaded Fry Guy things on Mayor McCheese’s turf? That was before Chuck E Cheese came into the picture and when the only THEME your party had to have was for the plates and napkins. I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite because I LOVE a good theme party, but I’ve caught myself sinking enough money into these themes to where I’d have sworn Hamburglar came along and wiped out my checking account. This year we simply couldn’t swing the super fancy party favors that are a gift themselves to every tiny party goer so I took the kids down to Party City with instructions to get some little things to fill the plastic goody bags. After roaming the aisles and perusing the party picks, we finally found the Cars 2 display and the sales clerk asked me if we needed any help. Leave it to my kid to smile and say, “No thanks! We’re buying a bunch of cheap stuff made in China to put in the goody bags!” CRAP!! I was mortified but crap is what we bought and none of the kids OR parents seemed to mind when we handed them out. In fact, I think I’m super lucky. We got strong armed into having the festivities at the roller rink but I seriously doubt any of those other parents would have said a word if we’d blown up balloons and thrown streamers around at the park. My own anxiety about these kinds of things gets to me, but I’m thinking that I’m not alone. Retro is in, and if any of the other sometimes-anxious-overly-eager-to-please-their-child-and-live-up-to-the-standards-set-by-today’s-world folks wanna give it a try, cop a squat at the local park and don’t feel inferior to the folks with the back-yard carnivals at their McMansions. I promise you’ll see others doing the same, and don’t we ALL deserve a break today?

(For anyone interested: Check out this article from retrojunk.com I found when I started looking for picture. THIS will take you back!!) http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/4432/

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