The Two Birthday Parties – my life is a Seinfeld Series
My Uncle Bob (yes, Bob’s my uncle), who reads my blogs, said, “Brett, your life reads like the Seinfeld series.” He has a point. In the last month, I have enjoyed a sensory-explosion holiday in Montreal, ungraciously deplaned a flight, drove across Canada in two and a half days, and, by the grace of God, narrowly avoiding eating a belly full of toxin-laced shellfish on the Sunshine Coast. If that is not enough to rival the life stories of Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, yesterday’s epic tale of two birthday parties will take the prize!
It all started a couple of weeks ago when I picked the kids up from school. After parking the “old van”, as the kids affectionately refer to my 1971 Volkswagen van, in the driveway, they shot out of the door and sprinted for the house. As usual, I was left behind schlepping backpacks and arts and crafts projects. The kids shook the locked door urgently, hoping that it would somehow magically open. I had to separate them from clambering over each other to “get in the house first”. I gave them their packs and asked them to carry them into the house or ” nobody was going inside” . Realizing this was their only option, they slung their backpacks over their shoulders and went in. Of course, as soon as they entered the foyer, they dumped their packs and sprinted inside. Like a well-trained seal, I picked up the bags and carried them into the kitchen for the daily routine of gutting the backpack to spill the contents of the day.
I took out lunch kits, home work, permission slips, library books, spelling tests, crafts, and the usual paper work kids bring home from school. In my daughter’s pack, I noticed two birthday invitations. I took them out to announce to my daughter (who is in grade one) that she has two birthday invitations from Alexis and Sofia. She replied, as expected, “I know that Dad.” Still being fairly new to this parenting thing, I probably get more anxious about these parties than she does. I noticed that one invitation (Sofia’s) contained some tickets to be used at that party which was a “Circus Party”. I sat the invitations, envelopes, and tickets in my favorite pile near our family computer. This pile contains all the stuff I need to “get to later”. It is a far from perfect system and my partner and I have slightly different ways of dealing with piles. I tend to slowly work through my pile and recycle the papers or bills once I have dealt with them. My partner has a more aesthetically pleasing system which uses drawers and filing baskets. Every once and a while, my ever-growing and leaning pile disturbs her and she does a cleaning. She usually does an excellent job of combing through my pile and tossing that which looks like it is ready for recycle. So, when she saw the envelope for Sofia’s party, she recycled it but failed to notice the tickets were inside.
As I mentioned, I have anxiety around organizing things for the kids. I am so worried about other parents judging me, that I can over-react to the silliest of things. Unfortunately, I over-reacted to the missing envelope of the ” Circus Party” tickets. This ended up in a needless argument, which led to me sleeping on the couch that night. My partner, in an attempt to settle me down, called Sofia’s parents, made the RSVP for my daughter and explained that we tossed the tickets – they of course laughed. In the morning I got up feeling stiff and a little embarrassed for my behavior. I tried to settle my nerves before RSVPing for Alexis’s party. I rehearsed the conversation, made the call, and once I hung up the phone, I relaxed. I had my daughter booked for two birthday parties which ended up being on the same day. Alexis’s party was from 12-2:230 PM and Sofia’s was from 1:00-3:30 PM. I explained to my daughter that we would only be able to stay at Alexis’s party until 1:15 PM and then we would race over to Sofia’s party. My daughter seemed unfazed by this schedule. Of course, it was me, being allegrophobic, who was stressed. This was not helped by the fact that we somehow could not find a pair of shoes for the poor girl, so she was going to both parties in gumboots.
My daughter was having a great time at the first party when I rudely had to tear her away still with a piece of pizza still in her mouth. I must admit, I was a bit surprised that my daughter was the only kid who was leaving one classmate’s party to rush to another classmate’s party. I actually thought to myself, “Well, I guess my shy little violet is becoming quite popular”. I was feeling a bit proud! As I was a shy kid in school myself, I was not exactly Mr. Popularity, but clearly this was being corrected in the next generation. I was feeling quite chuffed about my parenting skills.
My daughter was still chattering away about how good the first party was when we arrived at party number two – Sofia’s house. I should mention that when I drop the kids off at school and daycare, I rarely recognize more than a handful of the kids, and even fewer parents. We parked the old van next to the house adorned with balloons, flags, signs, and lots of kids. Both myself and my daughter became silent. We clutched each other’s hands as we cautiously strode into the Circus Party. I wanted to show my daughter how to be friendly, so I started chatting with another parent. I didn’t recognize him, so asked if he has a child here at the party who knows Sofia. He said “Yes, both my kids go to the Little People Learning Center daycare and know Sofia from there.” I replied, “Well that’s a coincidence, my son goes to that daycare!” We both engaged in small talk, and when I was satisfied that my daughter was going to be fine on her own, I directed her to a woman dressed as a clown, who was apparently the parent in charge and likely Sofia’s mother. Again, trying to show my daughter good social skills, I introduced my daughter to this nice lady dressed as a clown. She accepted my daughter’s gift on behalf of Sofia and welcomed her into the party. She soon had a party hat on and was being led into the backyard with the rest of the little kids. I bed my adieu and said cheerfully, “See you at 3:30”. She was quiet but did not seem distressed. As I left the party, I also noticed how tall my daughter seemed next to the other little kids. Once again, I felt oddly chuffed about that, too.
I had approximately 90 minutes to do some errands before picking my daughter up. I went to Rona for landscaping supplies, and went home and did bit of yard work. My partner was busy keeping the boys entertained because, clearly, they did not have the same double-booked social schedule of their sister. Time flew by but I was satisfied that I made good use of my time. I drove back and arrived at exactly 3:30 PM. I parked in the same spot and went to the back yard. My daughter was sitting beside Sofia’s mother who was still in her clown costume. My daughter was still quiet, but quite proud of her face painting and excited to show me her goody bag. Before leaving, I decided I should introduce myself to Sofia’s mother. I shot my hand out and confidently introduced myself. “Hi, I am Brett”. She replied, “It is nice to meet you”. There was something in our exchange that made me a bit self-conscious but I couldn’t figure it out. As we walked down the driveway I noticed this diminutive child waving at my daughter. I asked my daughter, “Who was that sweetie?” She replied, “I have no idea Dad”. I took five more steps and stopped dead in my tracks. I asked my daughter, “Sweetie, did you know ANY of the kids at the party?” Without hesitation or emotion she flatly said, “Nope, nobody dad.”
Then it hit me. Oh my God! My daughter does go to school with a girl named Sofia but so does my son! My son goes to the Little People Learning Center with another five year old named Sofia! I had ripped my daughter away from the first party to bring her to another party, full of strangers, where I confidently left her for 90 minutes! I laughed so hard I was crying as we drove the old van home. My daughter, then realizing what I had done, called me, the real clown. She was not at all traumatized, and took great delight in calling me a big clown for taking her to the “wrong” Sofia’s party. As it turns out, Sofia, in my daughter’s class did not have a party this weekend at all. Once getting my daughter home, we went inside and told our tale to the rest of the family. My partner laughed and said, “these things could only happen to you Brett”. Feeling the strong need to help Sofia’s parents know what happened, I raced off to buy a bottle of wine and then returned to Sofia’s parents house. By this time Sofia’s mom was out of costume. I re-introduced myself as the father of my SON who goes to daycare with Sofia. I explained how there were two invitations in my daughter’s backpack and she does indeed go to school with a girl named Sofia. We all laughed, and laughed some more. She said, “My husband and I were both asking each other who this tall, quiet girl is. Neither of us knew and could not really figure it out but she seemed nice.” They even asked their daughter Sofia to give my daughter a hug to thank her for the gift, but she hesitated saying , “But, I don’t know who she is…”.
Embarrassed beyond imagination, I left the nice family feeling at least the mystery of the tall, party crashing girl was solved. I drove home, poured myself a generous bowl of vinifera and thought to myself, “my Uncle Bob is right, my life is like a Seinfeld episode.”
Oh well, my kids will never say they lead a boring life – how could they with a father like me!
Happy Father’s Day. It is quite a journey.