We parents put too much pressure on ourselves for so many things. This isn’t me lecturing or judging; I’m just as bad as the next person. I wind myself into a total tizzy preparing for the smallest – yet still significant – events in life, and the perfect example of this is our children’s birthday parties.
First, let’s all silently agree that these birthday parties sometimes get a tad out of hand. It’s not necessarily a bad thing: Celebrating your offspring is a big deal! I myself am guilty of tearing up as family and friends sing “Happy Birthday” to a sheepish little grin basking in the glow of a number shaped candle’s flicker. I reflect on all it took for that beautiful baby we are serenading to get to that point and all the love they are surrounded by and ohhhhhh I just get all up in my own feels about the kids who don’t get to experience that love and then I get emotional and all the gratitude and wonder of the miracles in life come pouring out my eyeballs. (I’m such a sap.) It IS cause for celebration!
Gonna pause from being weepy for a minute and switch gears to admit that I dug the COVID caravan drive-by parties. One of my kids had one and we attended many and damn they were cool! And simple. I could kind of get on board with that tradition continuing… except for ohhhhh these babies deserve to know just how much they are loved, and therefore simply must have a themed party thrown in their honor annually at a unique and interesting venue with coordinating party favors. Again, no judgment. I have 100% done it (several times!). Fun to plan; stressful as hell to pull off.
That brings us to our first COVID-era in-person birthday party in our family. It was March 2021. COVID had taken a wee bit of a break, and indoor capacity and gathering limits had been loosened a tad. Still, as the ever cautious parents, we opted for a small, private gathering for our about-to-be-6-year-old at a new place in the area that looked right up his alley.
The location is irrelevant, and I won’t divulge where specifically because much of these circumstances were completely out of their control and they were very nice people. It was right after a flood and we had been warned things weren’t in tip top shape, but that didn’t matter to us because we were “New People.” After all, the pandemic had taught us that the frills of the birthdays of yore didn’t matter; what matters is that the kids have fun. I was now a Chill Mom, ready to go with the flow.
That was a short-lived label. It’s been eight months since this happened, and I’m finally ready to share this story. Zero chill here, and I’m owning it.
It was immediately obvious that certain circumstances of this party location were just not going to work. The first red flag of the day was when we pulled in and the truck parked out front had a detailed decal of a woman on the back window. She was perhaps preparing for her annual Pap smear, judging by her position. My 8-year old daughter, an avid reader, began to sound out the new letter combination on the decal: “Woooooore? Holllller? What’s a Wore Holler?”
Whore Hauler. Which made sense ‘cause it was strip club adjacent.
It came unraveled from there and we knew we had to punt, so some quick panic-stricken calls were made and we headed up the road to another party destination. Sadly, everyone in the state had the same damn idea. Rattled by the sudden change of venue and having to completely switch gears from my original vision of how this (specifically themed, dammit!) party would go, I knew my first priority was to just pile game tokens on the kids. I distractedly inserted my debit card and instead of 50 tokens, I hit $50 in tokens, and they came flying out like a jackpot in Vegas, except I was definitely not #winning at that moment. I looked forward to the opportunity to leverage that expenditure for the World’s Most Expensive scented eraser and kazoo.
I managed to get all the invitees rounded up and we found a table and ordered food. I thanked their parents for their flexibility, and the kids played and played. I wished to myself that this stinking place served beer (the venue of the same brand where I grew up did so, but I guess we’re in the south so whatever). Luckily God is in control and the millions of aforementioned tokens kept the kids busy because our food order got missed and when it finally came out it was completely wrong.
We gather round… we sing (no tears; I’m too tense) … my baby boy smiles… I start to relax. Time for cake!
Not so fast, Chill Mom, because that cake is still frozen solid. It actually took that mofo a whole other day to thaw, and I’m pretty sure I stress/shame ate it in handfuls out of the fridge the next morning. Seriously, we could barely get a knife through it.
Presents, clean up, etc. etc. As we finally make our exit – juggling all our stuff and an ice block of a cake – with my nerves still on edge, I turn around to an awful sound and see my mother-in-law on the ground. Mamaw had tripped, face-planted on the pavement, and we later found out she actually broke her ankle! 😱
At that very moment, a single balloon slipped away from the bunch I was trying to corral into the car. I watched it ascend into the sky thinking, “There it goes, my last bit of sanity. Goodbye Chill Mom! Say hello to the heavens. Please don’t choke a bird.” I shove (throw) everything into the trunk, scream at my fighting kids to shut it down NOW (clenched teeth Batman voice for sure).
In other words, I snapped. I was completely frazzled by all the mishaps; a woman tortured by the fact that I had totally screwed up my youngest child’s birthday. I had failed. We left the parking lot in tense silence.
As parents, we spend so much time planning these events and want them to be perfect so our babies have the perfect day! Turns out, our vision of “perfect” is much different from theirs. As we pulled out onto the highway (still in tense silence), a sweet voice from the back seat proclaimed, “THAT WAS THE BEST PARTY EVER!” I turn to see his toothless smile ear to ear, and that’s when the tears finally came. I let out a little whimper of relief and realized that for better or worse, we would never forget this day – or the Whore Hauler – and that I need to cut myself a little slack. Once I stopped twitching from the whole event, I began to see the glimmers of humor in it all (with the exception of poor Mamaw’s fall. She’s doing much better now by the way!)
So, my gift to you all is this: Anytime you are panicking over an event that is not going as well as you’d hoped and planned (and planned), just remind yourself that I booked a birthday venue for my six year old next door to a strip club. Take a deep breath in, and then breathe out, “Wooooooore Hollerrrrrr.” Namaste. 🙏🏻