01 02 03 Prone to Wander: Most of my life I have struggled with going to social events, but birthday parties are the worst. 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Most of my life I have struggled with going to social events, but birthday parties are the worst.


I admire people who can go to these events, with a genuine smile, and enjoy themselves, which probably includes most people. For years, my heart would fall when my boys would bring home birthday party invitations and eager pleas, “Can we go?!” Sometimes I would move the invitations to the junk mail and hope that they would be forgotten, but the boys wouldn’t forget them. Sometimes going to birthday parties would not work out schedule wise, but other times, there was no excuse other than an anxiety ridden mom who thinks talking to other people is the scariest thing ever.  Most of the time, I would feel guilty for feeling this way, and when I would go to the birthday parties, I would try to hide in a corner, a bathroom, or even my car, usually with a piece or two of cake. Any time someone tried to talk to me, my sorry attempts at conversation would be something along the lines of “I like bread. It is good.”

Yes, seriously.

I have been working on this, and I feel like I have gotten better over the past two years, although most birthday parties are handled strategically with a plan and an escape route.

Today was a birthday party that I could not deny Kevin. He had gotten the invitation three weeks ago, had marked the birthday party on his calendar and drawn a big blue cake on it too. Every day, usually multiple times a day, he would remind us of this event and that we should start preparing. If anyone mentioned making plans with us in these past three weeks, Kevin would interject, “probably not, because we have a birthday party we are going to that day.”  (The invite was for all of us). I tried to keep my feelings about birthday parties on the back burner since 1) I am getting better about socializing, 2) Kevin’s immense desire to go , 3) The whole family was invited, so at least I would have Raymond and David there too, and 4) The party was within walking distance of our house.

So, this morning around 8 am Kevin starts reminding us about the party today at 1 pm. The reminding continues. The presents are wrapped, the card is signed, and we are ready to go. It’s 1:04 PM, and we are still at the house and Kevin says with a bit of hysteria, “I feel like you all are acting like the party hasn't already started!!!”  

Yes, he did.

We walk there. Water games, a bouncy house, a slip in slide. Kids with drippy green and blue popsicles scatter the yard.  I keep reciting the Serenity prayer, focusing on the “what I cannot change” part.  I tell myself I do not have to stay, but I am choosing to stay. A few minutes in, I think to myself, “This party will go down in the books as the first one where I didn’t hide somewhere.”

Everything is fine, until one guest arrives. We are all outside, and the birthday fun is just exploding. David is standing beside me, and a dad and his kid arrive. The kid, who I will call Jake, is friends with Kevin at school. Kevin talks about Jake all the time. So, Jake and his dad walk up to David and me, and Jake's dad introduces himself as Jake’s dad and sticks out his hand. I freeze. A few seconds pass and I finally say, “I’m Kevin’s dad.” He looks at me, a little confused, but just nods. “Nice to meet you,” he says.

He walks away, and then I realize what I had said. Horrified, I turn to David. “David, did I just introduce myself as Kevin’s dad?”

David laughs and says no, that he is pretty sure I didn’t, because that would be funny and he would have remembered that, but he admits he also wasn’t really paying attention.

“Are you sure I didn’t?”

“Yeah, about 75% sure.” He says.

Still, at that moment, I just couldn’t handle the party. I excuse myself and walk home. David asks me where I was going; I say I will be right back.

At home, I try to just breathe and I tell myself that it’s an honest mistake. Maybe Jake’s dad didn’t notice. Yes, he did. He looked at you weird. David said you didn’t say “dad.” Well, he was actually not sure. You’re an idiot. You can’t even survive a child’s birthday party. Most people aren’t like this.

I debate on staying home; after all Raymond is over there. I don’t HAVE to be there. I CHOSE to be there. I decide that I need to go back. It is rude to leave abruptly with no explanation. I start with a 47th round of the Serenity prayer, this time focusing on the “courage to change the things I can” and trudge back.

No one really noticed I had left, which was good. I watched the kids play and ate some pizza and cake, and actually did have a semi normal conversation with someone, and no it wasn’t about liking bread. That was a true success. I avoided eye contact with Jake’s dad, which was probably unnecessary. I’m sure he wasn’t obsessing over if I said I was a “dad” instead of a “mom.” Good grief. My head was exhausted with all this mental ping pong.

The party went on, and finally we left, and overall, it was a success. The kids had fun, the pizza was good, and there was that one good conversation. Sure, I had a moment, but I recovered.

So, if you can believe this, David was invited to a birthday party this evening. TWO birthday parties in one day. David’s 12, so I was NOT invited to attend with him, which is fine with me. As I was driving him to his friend’s house, he said,



“The more I think about it, the more I think you did say “dad” instead of “mom.” In fact, I’m pretty sure you did, but I said you didn’t because I didn’t want you to worry about it. It’s not a big deal at all. It’s just kind of funny, that’s all.”

“Oh,” was all I could muster.

He said that right before we pulled up to his friend’s house. There were several other parents dropping off kids and it was a circular driveway, so I couldn’t park and get out. In fact, he told me to drop him off, and I didn’t need to get out, which hurt my feelings a bit, but it’s the age, I think.  He said I could pick him up at 8, and he would call me if I needed to pick him up sooner.

At this present moment, his birthday party will be over in an hour. My plan is that when I pick him up I will to walk up to the parents and other kids and introduce myself as…David’s dad.

Except you know I won’t.

35 36 37 38