I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. After a particularly long morning, the Twins’ 3rd Birthday Party was finally in full swing. Food was served, Piglet and Pluto cupcake towers were constructed, and while kids of all ages darted across the house hopped up on sugar, our adult friends and family tossed back a mimosa or two, occasionally craning their necks to check on their offspring.
Yep, it looked like we just might pull this thing off after all.
It figures that on a day meant to be all about them, my son and daughter decided to make the entire morning all about them with constant, unnecessarily melodramatic whining, thus hindering the actual preparation for their party. The plan had been for me to head to the grocery store for a few last-minute food items while my wife stayed home to get things ready, with help from her sister who had graciously volunteered her mad cupcaking skillz. My wife–an überplanner–had dutifully procured party game supplies to be assembled, festive popcorn boxes to be filled with Orville Redenbacher-y goodness, and goodie bags to be distributed to the under-ten crowd. However, as I witnessed the Twins’ heart-wrenching, Oscar-worthy disapproval of changing from their pajamas to their party clothes just before I left, I had a feeling my wife’s überplans had become an endangered species. Sure enough, the moment I re-entered the house with groceries in tow (30 minutes from Go Time), I was met with a frantic Honey-Do-all-of-this-before-I-Hulk-Smash-somebody’s-face List. Despite my deft popcorn-box filling and spirited backyard dog-poo extraction, our guests began to arrive way before we were able to accomplish Operation: Meet The Wife’s Unrealistic Pinterest-Fueled Expectations.
My daughter hooked her arm securely around mine as I held her at my hip–a cripplingly cute mannerism of hers that melts me to my core every single time.
Vocalizing airplane sound effects, I made an extravagant production of swooping my giggling passenger down to the floor to pick up each member of the Hundred Acre Wood institutionalized as her Bedtime Crew, currently featuring Piglet (her go-to daytime stuffty) as well as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger (the night-shift support staff who allow for optimal snugglization).
Her teeth brushed and hands washed, she knew we were coming up on bedtime and began her nightly wind-down ritual: gripping Piglet and Company, sticking her beloved right thumb in her mouth, and embracing day’s end with open arms and heavy eyelids.
Our son, however–currently in his mother’s arms–was performing his own nightly routine: maniacal arm-flails punctuated by Oscar-worthy whines. Never ready to pack it in, he’ll dash for the playroom or point at the turned-off tv in a last-ditch effort to stay up just a little longer, to milk as much out of the day as possible. There are still so many blocks to stack, so many books to read, so many Sing-Along Songs to groove to.
And while his unrelenting desire to be awake can be burdensome, I don’t ever fault him for it.
He gets it from me.
I used to laugh at my mother.
It would begin with her getting on the phone with a customer service representative. (Keep in mind that this was back in Ye Good Olde Days before Al Gore singlehandedly invented the Internet, when instead of yelling at ambiguous, unhelpful websites or cussing at incompetent live-chat reps in all caps, the only game in town was to actually haggle with a real person about bills, warranties, and Hooked on Phonics.)
While my mother attempted to insult the intelligence of whatever dolt she was dealing with on the other line, some semblance of the following events would transpire.
My two younger sisters, who were a year apart and constant playmates, would be “Doing a Story,” their name for playing out an improvisational narrative with a star-studded cast of Barbies, My Little Ponies, and whichever Legos their brother failed to hide well enough. In choosing which playthings each of them would voice, the oldest of the two would always weasel her way into First Draft Pick.
“I’ll be Malibu Botox Barbie.”
“No! You got to be Malibu Botox Barbie last time we Did a Story!”
“But this is the sequel. I have to be Malibu Botox Barbie again or else we’ll tank at the box office. The fan base expects me, not some young, up-and-coming no-name. Here, you can be Especially Flamboyant Ken.”
“Girls!” my Mom would hiss. “I’m on the phone!”
Fully engrossed in their heated casting session, their battle would rage on without even acknowledging my mother.
“Then be Less-Exciting Sister With the Arm Missing Stacie!”
“Why can’t I be one of those 20 other Barbies?”
“Because I’m Barbie.”
My wife turned her head. “What?”
“I’m 30 on the East Coast. The Facebook ‘Happy Birthdays’ just started.”
She smiled, putting a comforting hand on my shoulder. Having just kissed her own 20s goodbye in November, she’d (understandably) had moments of panic when her day drew near and had been bracing herself all week for a potential flip-out on my part. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m okay.” And I was. I really, really was. But still… “It’s just…It’s really happening, you know?”
“Oh, I do,” she emphasized, nodding wide-eyed. “Believe me.”
My straw sputtered as I downed the last of my drink and clomped the glass back on the table.
“Let’s get the birthday boy another one,” she grinned, rising from her chair. “Or should I say ‘old man‘?”
“Ha. Ha. Make it a double,” I snarked. I watched her as she zig-zagged through the throng of suits and dresses crowding the dance floor towards the bar.