Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Birthday Competition

You must be kidding?
                  No. I'm not.
A pony?!? A freaking PONY?!?
                  Yes. But other than that, the party looked a lot like the one you did last year. Except the kids weren't that into the games at this party. Or the pony.

The dreaded competition between parents at my kids' school has started. It's not ugly. But it sure is getting uncomfortable. The amount of money we are all throwing at the parties is stupid. For the last two years, the parties I did for my kids' birthdays were in the spirit of the ONE my mom threw for me. And I don't even remember it. My mind has conjured up a fantasy that I feel like I must meet.

Maybe it's the "Kool-Aid Mom" commercials from the 70s. Truth? I only want people to THINK I'm a Kool Aid Mom. If I really were one, I'd never get my work done. And I'm not talking about housework either. I'm talking about the work that makes me whole. The work that makes me feel like I'm making a difference. The work that helps my kids find their passion, because they see that I'm doing mine.

Why do I feel like I even have to tell myself not to get invested in competitions? I'm still trapped in the gender role wars. Only in my mind. I'm happily (and gratefully) married to a person who has no expectations of me in terms of being a mother, cook, maid or career person. He only wants me to be happy. I still want an orderly home, healthy meals, presentable children, and a stellar career. No, I can't afford help. Wish I could.

The kids' birthdays have to be ones that make them happy. Not superior. Too many families at my kids' school can't afford the parties they are throwing; us included. We've got bills and debt to manage. Summer camps and fun don't come cheap either. I can't and won't spend a whopping $500 on a party that will only go home in a bag full of dollar store candy that will end up being thrown away.

The calendar helped us out this year. The birthday was on a Monday. If not for the parties of their friends all happening at the same time, we'd have scheduled it the day before. Expectations for attending parties has also gotten expensive. If I showed up with sensible gifts (new Pajamas, or play clothes), the birthday kids would not be happy. They want toys. They want the stuff they see in the commercials.

What's going to make me a better parent, is being happy with the plans I have made for the kids. We had a great weekend before their birthdays. Not because of the party, or toys - but because we played together. I still got to work (attending various events is part of my work), and cleaned a little, and baked a little. And I even got a nap. I was happy.

The "official" party won't be until April 10th. Let's see if the competition gets uglier in my head before then.

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