Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Birthday Battle

It's sad, but of all the struggles I thought I would have to endure on my child's birthday, I hadn't really expected the major one to be against another parent. But so it goes that I find myself on my daughter's 2nd birthday ready to pull my hair out... and scream at the top of my lungs! It all began when I met another mother... we'll call her B... who's own daughter is 5 days younger than mine. The girls became fast friends and we mothers made awkward attempts. The friendship never really took flight though, due to differences in personalities, etc, but we remained social and continued our awkward attempts for the girl's sakes. At the beginning of this friendship, before all the red flags became apparent and the general awkwardness appeared, we decided to plan the girls' birthdays together at a local child's play gallery. Reservations for the party room were a bit steep so naturally it made sense to split it. It seemed a brilliant idea at the time... no set-up, no clean-up, no planning entertainment, etc. It would be well worth the cost and hopefully save us money in the long run.

This line of thinking was dreadfully wrong. Let me preface this by stating that B works in a morning care program for preschoolers... and is used to being in charge of the classroom. As the day of the party (or month rather) loomed closer, the calls became more frequent. "We need to plan, list, discuss" B said. Plan? List?

Ok... let's list. Cups , plates, cake. Got it. Good?

But the calls persisted. "Colors... balloons... crafts..." CRAFTS? It had all seemed so cut and dry. Herd kids into play gallery... kids play, have fun, go crazy.... herd kids into birthday room... sing... blow out candles... open presents.... herd kids back out to play where they will eventually disperse and go home... take happy toddler home where she will sleep very well until 9 the next morning. Right?

I tried to remain neutral (looking back... big mistake). "We (being myself and my 2 yr old) are impartial to colors, themes, or flavor of cake. You go ahead and choose what you like best" I mean... they're 2. Purple? Green? Blue's Clues? Dora? All fine.

If I had only known. Gift bags were purchased... cloth... to be decorated and filled (with bubbles, stickers, playdough, candy) during party. Crowns & "construction hats" purchased... also to be decorated at party... Cupcake stands/holders purchased... cupcakes to be decorated at time of party... t-shirts... to be decorated at party.

I need to also insert at this point that B has been "temporarily" living with her mom since her daughter was born. Her mom, also a single mom, with B as her only child, completely backs B up on everything so that it seems it is constantly the 2 of them against the world. It is B's mom who has come up with the cupcake idea and who gives B the feeling of being so right all the time that she doesn't need to consider anyone else or compromise on any matter.

Now, I am learning a new way of communicating. It is all a part of the new me. So I take several deep breathes as this itinerary is being delivered to me and as gently but firmly as possible voice my general concerns over cost, time, and energy involved in this process. I am wondering why we paid $120 for this location if we plan on spending all the time in the party room . These are all wonderful party ideas... for a party at home, where there is need for entertainment. Am thinking time of all this crafting may consume play time. B of course, had already thought of that. "To give us more time for crafts, they can open presents at home... after the party!" WHAT? Isn't that half the reason people buy presents.... for the gluttonous self-satisfaction that they're gift was the best and most beloved (as they all are of course)?

Because as I understand that B is not going to concede on the crafting at this point, I seek compromise. The next time B calls me... reminding me not to buy apple juice but mixed juice in case of allergies... (isn't there apple in the mixed?) I suggest that perhaps kids could craft while girls open presents. B seems rather irritated. "Don't you think the girls will want to craft as well?" Hmmm... have you met my daughter? But then she replies... "That's fine... you don't have to... maybe it will be best is if we use the room half the time and you can use it the other half ".

Pause... how did we get here? I've been so careful to be so laid back and the one time I finally voice an opinion I get ousted? Isn't this about the girls having fun? What is the appropriate response at this point? While personally I would be more than happy not being involved with B anymore at this point, wouldn't I be depriving my daughter of the fun? And to make matters worse, 3 out of the 6 kids I invited for Sephira have all taken their vacations THIS WEEKEND. I don't know that I've found replacements yet (if you have a toddler... let me know). Thus I feel sort of obligated to give Sephira the full party. But I think the numbers thing also makes B feel that she has more control. Which now that I think of it... maybe that's what it really boils down to. Maybe she thinks that her daughter having more friends makes it more her party... with us attending as well? BAH! I responded with... "ok... that's something to consider. Let me think about things and get back to you". I didn't know what to say. I felt sideswiped... I needed time to think.

I'm at a loss. I'm trying maintain my zen but really? I'm half tempted to let her pay the rest of the cost (we've paid the deposit) and not even show up. I'm trying to remember what this is about. I'm trying not to be petty. Maybe I'm just being stubborn and wanting my way? Which is of course simplicity but am I disregarding that B operates a different way and lacking respect for her vision of her daughter's grand day? Should we simply split the room (this was offered much less as a suggestion and much more as an insult)? Do I stick to my guns... I mean all I"m asking for at this point is that we open presents while crafting? Is that really so much? Or do I do what the old me would do and pay the rest of the fee for the room, but not show up for the birthday business? Just take my "kids" to the coffee shop next door for cookies later? ...And never talk to B again.

I don't want my daughter's childhood to be like mine... a series of dramas... especially birthdays and holidays. It's why I was so very cautious to remain neutral going into this. Did I subconsciously pick this fight anyway? Or subconsciously pick a person who would? I'm over it. All that is important is that my daughter understands that I appreciate the fact that she exists in this world. Regardless of the flavor of the damn cake.


Mado said...

Dear, your daughter is two. She could care less if there were 2 or 10 people at her party. I would walk away from this nightmare.

Tell the other mom that this combined party isn't working. That the two of you have different ideas of what a toddler's birthday party should be like and that none of your guests can make that day anyway. Tell her that if she would like you and your daughter to attend her party, you would be glad to, but if she needs some space, you understand too.

Plan a super low key cake and presents at your house for your daughter. The rule of thumb is one guest for each year of a child's age. There need be no more than two guests at a two year old's party. Ahhh. That makes is so much easier doesn't it? There is plenty of time for fancy parties later on...when she actually cares, which MAY start next year, but not really until the year after. With a first child there is an eagerness to impose desires upon them that they simply do not have yet. You will NOT be ruining your daughter's birthday by bowing out of this nightmare. You will be setting the example for her of setting boundaries that protect yourself from unneeded drama.

Do not blame yourself. You did not bring this on yourself. But you do have the responsibility at this point, to end the drama.

And don't worry about having to stay friends with this woman for the sake of your daughter. If she is willing to make peace, that is great. If not, your daughter will make other friends, and maybe even hook up with this girl again when it doesn't have to involve the moms.

Breathe. This will make a great story in a couple of years.

Julie said...

Mado said it! Just let her know that the whole party turning out to be more complicated than you had wanted, and it's probably best for ALL involved (she probably thinks you are a lazy non-caring parent, yes?) to have seperate parties at different locations. Be nice about it, and you'll still be able to chat in public places :) Take some good breaths, and happy birthday to your daughter!