My husband and I rarely fight. We are best friends and get along great. But when we do fight we have either consumed copious amounts of alcohol or there is an impending child-related function, namely, a birthday party, on the imminent horizon. Yes, rather than a joyous and fun occasion, kid birthdays for us are most often vehicles for anger, panic, and resentment.
But why? To find the answer, we need look no further than the fuckery I pull before birthday parties. And I’m certainly not one to take responsibility for my actions. But I can definitely say that the annual birthday brawl results mostly, if not exclusively, because of me. Let’s examine.
1. Start simple.
Several weeks before the party I begin to consider the endless possibilities for the theme and overall ambiance I want conveyed to the party guests/social media followers I am trying to impress. Somewhere in there I also consider the birthday girl, but her wishes are most definitely secondary to my desire for public adoration.
I begin by dismissing as obscene the extravagant birthday parties depicted on Pinterest. Exotic cactus garden party for a toddler? Who does that mother think she is?
But despite my best efforts, a few things catch my eye. The “everything pink and gold theme.” Or “My Little Sunshine.” I believe I have time to make several decorations and everything will be understated and un-bratty.
Firm in my anti-Pinterest brat convictions, I wander over to Etsy. And here is my downfall. Apparently working in close partnership with the Pinteresters of the world, Etsy has every item I could possibly desire for my chosen theme. Invitation suites, handmade garlands, paper goods, diaper covers, you name it.
And I need all of it. Because how could I effectively convey “My Little Sunshine” without $10 sun shaped paper plates? And where will I be if my pink and gold theme is undermined by an off-colored “Happy First Birthday” sign (or [gasp] no “Happy First Birthday” sign at all)?
I will be nowhere. The party will be ruined and (more importantly) all of the pictures of it will suck. Not today, Satan. Not today.
I proceed to order mass quantities of onetime use Etsy shit.
2. Get obsessive.
The party draws near and I am increasingly overwhelmed at the thought of other humans entering my home. It is not fit for outsider consumption. The problems go beyond the rank piles of laundry and dark masses of cat hair tumbling about the floor; I can easily fix any cleanliness issues so I need to focus my attention elsewhere, thereby further procrastinating and increasing my stress levels exponentially.
No, my eye wanders to larger projects I feel compelled to complete before any guest steps through the door. They include quick turnaround items such as replacing an entire door frame, mending shattered tiles, and applying fresh coats of paint.
And who better to contribute time and effort to this party than my husband? He has, after all, stood quietly by as I secretly ordered mass amounts of decor and rocketed this once simple first birthday into a showcase of mother-tries-to-channel-Martha Stewart self-aggrandizement. And with three days until the party, he should have no trouble completing my honey-do list.
But his response to my list of tasks is not up to snuff and I am displeased. He merely nods his head and I can tell he isn’t listening/doesn’t intend to do any of it. This greatly pisses me off and I leave the conversation seething.
Day before the party and the shit has really hit the fan. I have spent the majority of my day in a state of quiet rage.
It began after work when we went to Sam’s for food. After gawking in our cart, my husband makes a comment I find inappropriate about the necessity of my purchases.
Next, he notices that all of the decorations are either pink or gold. He comments that this is “cool.” I am deeply offended and immediately chastise him for not knowing the theme (despite the fact that I have never mentioned it). I imply that he should have taken a more active role in the execution of his child’s heretofore unknown birthday party theme. This being, of course, my preferred method of manipulation: say nothing, let them fail because they cannot fathom the expanse of your unspoken desires, and then later explode about it.
After putting up the groceries, and setting him about tasks, I look up and its 10:30 p.m. I begin to panic. The house is still FUBR’D and I have piles of “simple birthday DIY” projects to complete. But what really irks me is the slightly more labor intensive home reno issues I discussed three days prior. And so as nicely as I can possibly muster, I point out to him that the door frame, which was broken after being kicked down two years ago (shout out to Little Rock), is still unmistakably broken. Home Depot is open until 11:00. Go now.
And to his great credit, he does. By the time he is finished replacing the frame, its 1:30. I too am finishing up my crafts and we retire to bed by 2. Ready, rested, and excited for the birthday party to come.
4. Cause drama.
Day of. I am a ball of nerves and rage. Nobody seems to be as stressed out as me and that makes me violent. I attribute it to everyone else’s lack of care and overall slack attitude about my children and their general well being.
Amazingly, we have everything ready for the party but I’m not finished with my husband. I am still not satisfied that he takes the birthday party seriously enough. And upon discovering that he did not follow a superfluous instruction concerning how he should park, I explode. None of it is nice and none of it is productive. But guests are arriving in 15 minutes so by God, now is the time to do it.
Needless to say it does not go over well. He dares mention my Etsy purchases and that I have been a horrible monster the past week. I feign hurt and state that he must not care about his child’s birthday as much as I do. I also dab my eyes, looking tearful. Things end on a combative note.
5. Forced gaiety.
A few minutes later, guests arrive. We plaster smiles on our face and heartily greet them. He can’t fake it like I can so I appear joyful and he just appears sulky. I relish the contrast. The party is great.
Inevitably, I realize that I ruined it for us. I took what should have been a fun event and made it a stressful nightmare.
For once, we fought. And unlike the times he shook his fist at me on Dickson Street for
many reasons no reason at 2:30 a.m., I take full responsibility. “Sorry, love. I’ll do better,” I say. I promise that “the next party will be low key. And definitely done on the cheap. I’ve learned my lesson.”
Well, Baby No. 2 turns 1 next week. And what started out as a simple idea has grown a tiny bit more complicated. Pinterest had quite a few ideas and I ordered a few select items from Etsy. And now, come to think of it, I’ve got a few home improvement projects I need finished ASAP.
Here goes another kid birthday party down the shitter.