L.'s tenth birthday is on Tuesday next week, and on Saturday we're having a family birthday party for him at our neighborhood pool. This will be the third year in a row we've had the party at the pool but around here when something works, we just keep at it. Sometimes I think back to the parties I tried to plan when L. was three or four, or five even--the last year he had a real party, and we invited his kindergarten class. The parties never ended well--for anyone, but especially for L., who seemed just too stressed about it all to enjoy any part of it. Parties, after all, are not supposed to generate stress, or tears, or anxiety. Still, I always carry with me, like a mirage ahead in the distance, some vision of what I think L.'s party should be like--what I think an eight-year old boy would like, or a nine-year old or now, a soon-to-be ten year old. Every year I gently probe, "Do you want to invite anyone?" and every year the answer is always the same. A small part of me sometimes sighs inside, wishing that L. had a circle of friends who could come celebrate with him, or that he wanted this. But that's just a part of me, the part of me that can never fully be sure if L.'s need for the comforting rhythms of routine and sameness are holding him back from what he really wants. Or maybe it's what I want. I don't really know. ******** Last year L. picked the Hardy Boys, as his party theme and I had fun coming up with creative ways to incorporate this into the day. This year, I have it easier. L. wants a "cat theme"--a cinch compared to last year's challenges. All I can think about this year is how grateful I am that I'm not sick--there is nothing quite like spending the hours before your son's party at an Urgent Care, and then trying to enjoy the fruits of your party-planning labor while zonked out on vicodin. The only challenge this year so far has been finding cat-related party items that are not "girlie" with an over-abundance of pink bows and diamond-studded colors. We have cat goodie bags for the cousins, cat plates, cat napkins and even a cat litterbox cake--I found the recipe for this year ago and have been WAITING for the right chance to make it. I'll see you on the other side of the weekend... Happy Weekend, and happy Fourth of July!