My son’s birthday is in a few weeks. He’s turning four. Four. If that’s the case, why am I planning a party for him as if it’s either his first or 21st birthday? Why? Because there are two simple words to my madness: Social Pressure or what I like to refer to it as: Community Sentiment; somehow softens the blow for me using the latter.
I recently went to a birthday party of a friend. Her son turned one. I walked into her home and at first glance I felt the shame so badly, I think my head hung lower than my breasts that have nursed five kids. I couldn’t believe my eyes at what my friend had created! Not only is she a full-time working mother outside of the home, but she has two children who don’t sleep through the night, she nurses her baby, keeps her husband beyond happy, and maintains to always look so put together, all the while, getting about four to five hours a night of sleep. Yeah, I felt shamed. As the party continued, I glanced at all the excessive detail she went into planning and executing this party. The cups all matched, the tablecloths we perfectly placed, the food was prepared with impeccable timeliness, and the hostess herself? She maintained a smile that beamed from ear to ear.
As we gathered our things to leave the party, she handed me more shame, aka: a goody bag for my kids to take home…one for each of them. I smiled as I tried to not let the tears show.
So it takes me to the present time. I will not allow shame to get the best of me. My husband has always said I ride a fine line of being a quitter and being a giver-upper-of-things-too-hard. Yeah, he’s kinda dead on with that statement. I can find an excuse or someone to blame to not do something, faster than you can state your own name. I swear it’s in my DNA. See, there I go having excuses and blaming!
I’ve decided to plan my four year old’s party like my friend’s. Do I think it’s ridiculous to have an elaborate birthday party for anyone not turning 21 or 40? Yeah I absolutely think it’s ludicrous! Spending tons of money, time, effort, and angst all so your other mom friends think you’re the next Martha Stewart? Yeah, that’s reason enough for me to stop using excuses and blaming others as to why my son can’t have an-over-the-top-ridiculous-un-needed-birthday-party. I will prevail! And at the end of the festivities, I’m going to hand every single child a goody bag. And that goody bag will have useless toys in it that will get thrown away and or broken before their parents' car enters their driveway, candy that’s going to add to their hyper activity and drive their mom berserk, and maybe I’ll even throw in an outlandish tattoo that their child will adhere to their forehead, minutes before church service starts. Yeah, I’m going to do it all, because I want to give into the community sentiment of being a mom. I want to know the feeling of throwing a party where moms feel shamed as they walk out my door. Where they smile, but would rather cry because I’ve shown up all of their party skills they thought they had. But mostly, I want to have that victory of having my party pictures “pinned” over and over by other moms across the nation.
Then I wake up from my outlandish nightmare! What was I thinking? Trying to have a party for my four year old just to shame other moms? What kind of God fearing woman am I claiming to be?
As I take a step back for a moment, I realize my motives are different, just like my friend’s were too. She simply wanted to throw and over-the-top party for her son not to shame other moms, but to create memories as a family. That’s when I concluded that those indeed were my motives too. Yeah, I still feel it’s a little eccentric even for a four year old to throw such a party, but hopefully it’s one that he will cherish forever. Until next year, the big five…how will I top what’s about to go down for this year? Maybe by then, Pinterest will have a solution for me.
*Article first appeared in Idaho Family Magazine*