Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gonna Par-dee Like It's Ma (6 Year Old's) Buffday

So it was my birthday.  For once, this auspicious occasion is one I would have quite happily ignored.  Except when you have a 4 and 6 year old in the house, with a penchant for cake, balloons, parties and more cake, it turns out that sticking one's head in the sand regarding the ugly truth of the passage of time, is not an option.

Most of the time I am a complete birthday freak.  Or is that just cake freak?  Whatever.  Any excuse for a celebration is typically my motto.  Particularly if that celebration revolves around yours truly.  This year was a first, because I actually had no interest in it whatsoever.  If I could have slept the whole day through and missed it altogether, I would have in a heart beat.  But as I said, according to Captain Underpants and Johnny Drama, that definitely was not an option.  As soon as the calendar hit April I was pestered daily with requests for details on who, exactly, was going to come to the party and, more urgently, what type of cake was going to be served?  So in order to pacify the boys I invited a few friends over, with their kids, for a spot of birthday tea.  And cake, of course.  Heaven help me if I had forgotten the cake.

One unexpected surprise, as the Big Day approached, was that my dear friend from London was actually going to be in Chicago (due to the fact that she was stranded and unable to return home because of that pesky volcano business).  This made the whole idea of the birthday slightly more tolerable.

The night before my birthday (which was on a Saturday) was surprisingly pleasant.  My beloved babysitter (who is a fully paid up member of my default family) came over with cake, neighbours popped by, I unscrewed some cheap plonk and the adults took refuge in the kitchen whilst the children rampaged through the rest of the house, scattering boxes of toys in their wake.  Whilst happily chatting away in the kitchen, I received a text from Ex (who was attending a week long conference in DisneyWorld, of all places).  "What do you think about the boys coming down to join me here next weekend?"

This simple text completely took the wind out of my sails.  Disney?  Without me?  NO!  Taking the boys to Disney has been a dream of mine for the past few years.  My dream.  Not his.  And no doubt New Girlfriend would be joining them - slotting neatly into the space that should be mine, Goddammit.

I stewed over the text for hours and then all through the night.  This is so unfair, I fumed.  I didn't want to deny my boys a trip to Disney and I knew that Ex was simply taking advantage of his privileged work situation.  All the other wives and kids would be there - why should his boys miss out?  But then again, why should I?  Could I bear it if they went for the first time without me?  And what did it really say about me as a person and a parent if I wasn't able to put the boys interests first?

Yet again, I wrestled with violent, angry thoughts all night long.  My sleep was further interrupted by Johnny Drama coming into my room at 12.59am and then again at 3.47am, needing to be put back to bed.  By the time morning rolled around I was exhausted and even more furious about the whole situation.  Happy Fucking Birthday, I muttered to myself, as I struggled out of bed at 6am to meet the boy's demands for snacks and my body's demand for an urgent caffeine fix.  This part of single parenting I am really not a huge fan of.  The 'having to do it all' even on my birthday, without assistance.  It's bad enough on the best of days, but on your birthday it's just pants.

My bad mood intensified when I opened the cards from the boys - no special hand-made cards for me this year.  Just a couple of hastily bought identical pieces of crap from Hallmark with their names scribbled inside.  There weren't even badges for Chrissake.  This lack of thought and affection really brought it home to me how little Ex cared and how much he had moved on.  Inside one of the cards was $60.  There were no other presents for the boys to help me open.  I guess it was better than nothing but I still felt distinctly insignificant.  "Wow - $60!  You can buy a lot of Lego with that mum!" exclaimed Captain Underpants.  And he was right - it could buy 'me' a shit load of Lego but wasn't going to go very far in providing my dream splurge at Anthropology, was it?  A T shirt perhaps?  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  I struggled to feel grateful that Ex had made any effort at all.

The morning progressed as most Saturdays do, the boys acting up due to a bad nights sleep and mum acting worse due to that and more besides.  We went out to buy boxes of expensive cupcakes for the afternoon 'party' and I returned to the house with fresh eyes, furious at the mess that greeted me.  I had an hour to prepare food before people started arriving and the house looked like a bomb had hit it.  This is NOT how birthdays are supposed to be, I fumed internally, whilst scrabbling around on the floor picking up minuscule pieces of abandoned Lego.  I was so locked in my black thoughts that it didn't occur to me to check for clear air space when I stood up to deposit the handfuls of Lego back in the box.


The top of my head connected, unexpectedly and with considerable force, with a piece of overhanging granite and in a millisecond I was back on the floor surrounded once again by scattered Lego.  Oh this is flipping marvellous - now I have to add a fractured skull to the mix.  Remind me, why did I bother to get out of bed at all this morning?  I lay on the floor with my throbbing head in my hands and burst into tears.  It felt as if I had really hurt myself and I struggled to get my breath.  Whilst attempting to work out if I was still in the land of the living, the little voice in my head continued to nag me.  Er, hello?  We don't have time for any drama...or urgent trips to the ER...there's still Lego to be put away.  And have you seen the state of your kitchen lately?  Stop dicking around on the floor and Get A Bloody Move On.

The boys gathered round with concerned looks on their faces, trying to wipe my tears, obviously frightened.  My friend, who was playing an active role in the clean up campaign, rushed to the freezer for the trusted bag of frozen peas.  A few minutes passed and I was able to gingerly get to my feet, at which point I laid eyes upon the unmitigated chaos masquerading as my kitchen and decided that remaining on my knees was really the most sensible option.

I finally got back to the task in hand, rubbing gently at the huge egg-like lump which had formed on the top of my skull with a Lightening McQueen ice pack.  I got changed into my 'party' clothes (jeans, obviously) but on top of it all I was having a 'fat day', which as you can imagine, did nothing to improve my mood.

Ultimately, I was dressed, the house was relatively tidy (although by no means clean), a modest fayre was prepared and guests started to arrive.  My head was still incredibly tender so I self-medicated with a huge glass of vodka/tonic and all of a sudden, as if by magic, my birthday started to improve.  If only I had thought to start the day with alcohol instead of coffee...a note to self for next year, perhaps.

The rest of the day was just lovely.  Couldn't have been better.  The children ran amok outside, dangling each other off the deck, placing garden chairs atop the kiddy wagon then racing perilously towards the flight of stairs and then graffitying the back of my house with chalk to create this beautiful birthday mural.

Green Eyed Man turned up with a silly birthday tiara for me to wear and proceeded to mingle confidently with all my friends.  All the adults got a little bit tipsy and the kids all sang Happy Birthday before I blew out a few candles stuck in a cupcake.  It was so very, very nice.

And the icing on the cake?

When I returned to the house after waving everyone goodbye, GEM and the boys were outside playing football together as if they had known each other for ages, rather than meeting for the first time only 2 hours prior.

I rubbed the sore spot on my head, as I stood at the back door watching them, and smiled.

And decided, that of course my gorgeous boys should join their dad in Disney if that was what he wanted.  They deserved it more than anyone I knew.  Even me.  Or should that be, especially me?  Oh, whatever.


  1. Apart from your goose-egg sized bruise, it was a lovely birthday.
    And I am so thankful to that bloody volcano for forcing me to be there to share it with you.
    I'm looking forward to many more birthday occasions with you.

  2. I like the tiara, doesn't matter that you had to tidy up and everything and bonk you head a tiara, a muriel (as my Nan called them) and a GEM. Sounds pretty good to me. Happy Belated Birthday!!!

  3. Sounds like the worst of times and the best of times (like a strange sort of reverse Dickens). Happy belated birthday and I hope that the GEM or someone similar will discover you and make every day a tiara day

  4. Happy belated birthday - and you're a saint. x

  5. Head-butting granite really isn't my birthday celebration of choice - try to bypass that one next year.
    A tipsy party and a muriel and tiara are worth much more than $60. Not that this is setting your expectations in any way for our joint birthday celebrations when you move home... :o/

  6. Oh, it's a crazy thing, this single parenting gig. I get it, I really do. The mood swings, the resentment, the feeling that it is Just Too Much too much of the time, the feeling that suddenly you don't matter any more.

    Here's the thing, though: those boys adore you. Obviously. And one day they'll be old enough that they'll be making their own little cards for you without prompting and buying adorably horrible little gifts with their pocket money and whether or not the Ex gives a damn will mean nothing.

    Also, while the boys are at Disney, you can indulge in all the vodka and GNOs and whatnot that you like WITH NO SITTER NEEDED. There is ALWAYS an upside, and that is a major one when it comes to splitting custody.

    Happy Birthday, love, even if it's late. Big hugs from one single mama to another.

    This too will pass.

  7. What's the adult equivalent of Disney? I think you should indulge while the boys are at the kiddie place. (Belated happy birthday BTW. So glad I brought along that voucher the other day. That can be your present!)

  8. I agree with Expat Mum - do the adult equivalent of Disney (a spa maybe?) or something fun with GEM. I can see why it's upsetting not to be there with the boys, but you can console yourself with thinking you won't have to queue for hours to go on some bloody ride that lasts five minutes.......
    Happy Birthday x

  9. I take from this story that a vodka/tonic makes everything alright.

    Happy Birthday!

  10. Oh hun, that is a tough start to your birthday. Glad it improved! x

  11. Thanks for that post, big of you to let them go. And for the TOP TIP - start the day with vodka - I'm going to try this from now on. xxxx

  12. God, I am so rubbish at replying to comments, aren't I? Just another thing to add to the list of things that I fail at miserably...

    Lulu - having you there made my day

    Tattie - thank you! at least the tiara didn't give me hat hair

    HOM - what a lovely thought. one day...

    PM - so i should be aiming for a halo instead of a tiara??

    KR - yep - let's paint the town next year x

    TM - hmmm, it's a funny old state of affairs, this single parenting lark and i wonder how long I will struggle with it and whether it will ever become 'the norm'. Thanks for the big hug!

    Expat mum - yes, my 'birthday' lunch was delicious...thank you so much x

    NVG - the Disney trip didn't happen in the end, which was a relief of sorts. Of course, now he wants to book another trip in June...if only it was as simple as us all going together.

    MWA - yep - works a lot faster than a glass of wine (although of course you will have to wait a while until you can try out my theory...)

    Pantswithnames - yes, better that it ended on a high note than the other way round I guess

    Hari - thank you! although i don't recommend doing the school run half cut, obviously ;)

  13. Simply put: I love your writing. I'm telling you, I was right there with you feeling strung out, sad, frustrated, hurt, then joyful, grateful, and proud.

    Glad the day ended on a high note.