It's that time of the year, the time for me to face all of the ways that I fail as a mother. Looming in the shadows of my datebook is my son’s upcoming birthday. Although it comes every year, the feeling is always the same. Dread.
Of course my dread has nothing to do with my son’s actual birthday. I love making him feel special and celebrate all of the ways he has grown over the past year, but it’s the party that surrounds it that I can’t handle.
As a highly sensitive introvert, I have a tremendous amount of anxiety over children’s birthday parties. Kids running around screaming, sugared up from cake and candy? No thank you. I could almost handle the madness if it weren’t for having to make small talk with the parents. That alone makes me want to dart for the door. Full confession: I am incapable of small talk. My mind goes completely blank when I try to have a conversation with anyone. The words just don’t come and then I start to panic that the person I’m talking will soon find out that I’m not as interesting as they had hoped. The pressure is all too much for me. I’m starting to sweat just thinking about it. Luckily my husband is also an introvert so we usually huddle together in the corner of the room to protect each other. We have a pact, if we RSVP “yes” to a party, then we both have to go.
I’m always amazed at how effortless children’s parties come to some adults. They easily move from parent to parent, looking engaged and interested. Not only do they seem comfortable, but they look like they are enjoying it! All the while, I just want to run.
Tell me that I have to host a party and it sends me completely over the edge. Would it surprise you that I used to be a wedding planner? You see, I love planning events, I just don’t want to invite anyone too them. Are solo parties a thing?
Hosting a birthday party exposes just how much I don’t fit into society. I can’t escape from this reality like I can the other 364 days of the year.
Birthday Parties often do not take into account the things that I care about most: animal protection, human rights, and environmental conservation. How do I reconcile the idea of such an important cultural event when it goes against what I believe? The cost, the standards, the consumption…IT’S ALL TOO MUCH!
No balloons at a birthday party? Surely you have to have balloons! It’s not a party without balloons! But…well…umm…what about the sea turtles, birds, and other wildlife that could choke on it? Who cares! Buy the balloons!
And just look at all of the excess waste: disposal plates, napkins, cups, and party bags filled with plastic crap that some young child was probably exploited to make. It makes me want to cry. Most likely it will all just end up in the landfill anyway. I feel the same about the mountains of presents that always accompanies the party. I feel that it is one of the first introductions in life that teaches our children that in our society, we need to consume in order to feel loved, special, and valued.
Our family cares about the well-being of animals and therefore we are vegan. Will people make comments if I serve only vegan food? Will they be disappointed if they don’t get their slice of extra-cheese pizza and piece of buttercream cake? Not to mention, all zoo and aquarium parities are out of the question.
I’ve tried to dodge the party topic every year. During the previous five years, we have held only one larger party where we invited neighbors and friends. Since then, we’ve opted for experiences and take James places as his birthday treat instead of spending money on a big party.
But this year is a little different. All his friends from kindergarten are having parties and he’s more adamant about wanting one. We are just about four weeks away from his birthday and I am still paralyzed about what to do.
Is a family party good enough when it’s just the three of us? It sounds like a simple solution but with no extended family around and James being an only child, mom guilt kicks in extra hard.
I already have the extra guilt of “only” having one child (that’s a story for another day), but not being brave enough to plan a birthday party for him surely should land me in mom jail.
I can’t do it, but do I have to do it for my son? Will I permanently scar him for not being able to have a party at the fancy trampoline park down the street?
What does it even mean to celebrate? Why do we even have birthday parties and when did they become such extravagant affairs? What are they really teaching our children?
I admit that I don’t know what I’m going to do. Does anyone have any advice? Maybe I just need to talk to him and explain that there are many ways to celebrate special occasions and when he’s older he’ll understand and appreciate what I was trying to do…or maybe I’ll just start a savings account now with money for the therapy he will need because I didn’t allow him to have the big birthday party he always wanted. C'est la vie.
Shifting our paradigm of thinking so that we not only create a more compassionate world, but a world that works for all.