Birthday madness - FamilyEducation

Birthday madness

January 15,2009
I'm not a night-worrier by nature; I'm more of a late-day, early evening, the-kids-are-in-bed worrier. At bedtime I'm frankly way too exhausted to think much about anything. I tend to get wound up with worries at about 9:00 p.m., and then those worries that have been festering all day explode to the surface, often during commercial breaks between favorite television shows. Scott, however, is a nighttime worrier. This morning he told me he was awake from 5:00-6:00 a.m. worrying about, of all things, T.'s birthday party on Saturday. I think this was partly my fault. My husband often looks to me as some type of worry-meter. If I'm worried about something, the seed gets planted in his head and he starts to worry, too. So last night, right after we finished dinner and were dealing with that dreaded No-Man's-Land of post-dinner, pre-bedtime crazies, I put my head down on the kitchen counter and told him I wasn't sure I had it in me to pull off this party and, what were we thinking? But, as Scott concluded this morning, if T.'s preschool teachers can entertain and control a group of 16 four- and five-year-olds four days/week, then we can certainly manage one party. I'm trying to take comfort in that, but I'm not sure it's working. As everyone knows, I love parties. I love to plan parties, I love to host them, I love bringing people together, young or older. I love feeding them and then sending them forth with something special to remember. I think part of the reason we went all-out for T.'s fifth birthday and invited her entire preschool class, the neighbors across the street, and of course all our relatives is because she is such a social, friend-lover. She has cast her heart around all her friends this year, and hasn't had a bad thing to say about a single one of them. She's also quite popular, this little bubbly ambassador of ours, and we just didn't have the heart to sit down with her and tell her she couldn't have so-and-so, or that we'd have to keep the numbers low. And how do you deal with an entire class? Invite just a few? Leave out the rest? All-girl parties are out for us because T. has four boy cousins in the area, and once you start down the list of names you pretty much need to invite everyone, or no one at all. "Don't talk about your party at school," we told T. one morning, when we were in the initial planning stage. "Just in case we can't invite everyone." Of course, telling a four-year-old not to talk about her birthday party at school requires much more self-control than an average four-year-old has. That very morning, while Scott was helping her hang up her jacket and put her bag in the cubby, she burst out with news of her party to everyone within earshot. Despite this 11th-hour angst, I am excited about her party, I really am--and now that I've written about it, I've faced my anxieties, I think. Deep down, I'm really not too worried about how/whether we can pull it off. I'm also trying not to take it all on myself. Scott talked me out of making the cake, and yesterday I brainstormed with the nice Polish lady who works at my Kroger store--the same lady who has made almost all the cakes for my kids' birthdays. We came up with a gorgeous green dragon/princess cake. T. and I are stopping by the craft store this afternoon to buy some fake gems for a fun gem-sifting activity I have planned (fill several shoeboxes or one large shallow box with sand. Hide enough fake gems for each kid to find one or two. After the kids are done "hunting," glue the gems on a paper clip and then have the children thread string around the ends to make a pretty necklace, bracelet, or pendant), and we're trying to line up a play date for L., so he can escape the party madness. Half a decade IS big, and next year we'll plan a smaller party for T. But you only turn five once, and next year T. will leave her preschool life and friends behind and take that big step forward into the world of kindergarten. And while kindergarten will be fun and exciting, and I know T. will make many friends (all of whom she may very well want to invite NEXT year), elementary school will never be quite like preschool--that sheltered, colorful, safe world in which we watched our daughter spread her lovely wings and leap.