We’re having a birthday party in Prospect Park this weekend for my son Sam, who is turning two. I’m making strawberry cupcakes, my husband Nat is making chicken salad, there will be a cooler of beer and other assorted beverages. We’ve planned a little Easter egg hunt for the kids (the eggs will have little cars and bracelets inside of them in lieu of a gift bag). It will be three hours long.
I’m freaking out.
Look, here’s the deal: There is no “easy” birthday party for a kid even if all you want to do is have an easy birthday party for a kid. I should have stuck to my guns and done the birthday party I wanted to do, which is just have the three of us go out for pizza, get the waitress to light a candle on a piece of cake, give him his presents, clap, smother him in kisses and call it a day. He is turning two. He doesn’t need more than that. Because, and here is the most important part to remember as you are reading this essay: He won’t remember anything about it.
But I am nothing if not gullible. I felt like since this was Sam’s last birthday in Brooklyn (we’re moving to the ‘burbs the end of the month), I should mark the occasion somehow. So we figured we’d do something "easy" and have our friends come out for a little park hang. But modern day parenting is so fraught that everything about this afternoon is stressful. How? Let me count the ways.
1. I sent out an email about it, not mailed, themed invitations. I’ve literally laid awake at night thinking about this and about how sad my etiquette-loving, Southern mother must be about how her daughter turned out to be such a Godless monster.
2. In that email, I pretended that my husband and I were throwing such a super laid-back party that there was no need to even RSVP. And now I don’t know how many cupcakes I need to make.
3. I didn’t invite my family/inlaws until the last minute, figuring they wouldn’t make the several-hour-long trek to just hang out in a park. They are also helping with our upcoming move; two treks to New York it too much. I was right, they can't make it, and even though I understand 100 percent why, I'm a sad-faced emoticon.
4. I only invited friends-with-kids and super close friends of ours, even though I have plenty of single friends. Do I invite my single friends? I mean, who in their right mind would want to go to a 2-year-old's birthday party in the park in the middle of the afternoon for an off-season Easter egg hunt? But — and here is where the crazy really sets in — maybe they think I'm purposely excluding them because they don't have kids. Even though the only reason I am inviting those friends with kids is because we're all in this special hell together and I know they have nothing else going on. Or, what if I invite them and then see them a few weeks later posting a snarky essay to Facebook about the horrors of being invited to a toddler's birthday when you don't have children of their own and how it sucked to spend money on a present even though I specifically mentioned in the shoddy e-mail invite (not mailed, themed ones) that I said no gifts? I'm getting worked up just typing this, folks.
5. Even though I said no gifts, people are going to bring gifts and I’ll have to send thank you notes. I’m moving my entire life at the end of the month and work is insane. I will never, ever find the time to send a thank you note. Everyone will then forever think I’m an ungrateful mooch.
This has been an ongoing conversation in my household for the past week and my husband is going slightly berserk. He's what you call “rational” and “easy-going” (not faux easy-going like me) and people seem to overlook when he doesn’t write thank you notes. He just wants to go hang out in the park for a few hours and celebrate our precious, funny, little boy. If people can get there, fine. If they can’t, fine. If they don’t get a cupcake, they will live. You can see what a nightmare my life is, right?
However, I was struck with a happy thought this morning as we were taking Sam to the playground. Sam was swinging, laughing heartily while we discussed next weekend’s birthday party. I turned from making faces at Sam to clutch Nat’s arm in excitement. “Nat,” my eyes glittered at the thought. “Maybe it will rain.”
Nat, having lived with me for many years and very aware of the inner workings of my head, smiled. “We can only hope,” he responded.
Follow Dorothy Robinson on Twitter, @dorothyatmetro.