February 27, 2010

Why my kids don't have birthday parties...and other thoughts

So today is C's 9th birthday...wow, where have the years gone? I'm seriously having major issues with accepting that my firstborn, my baby, is no longer my baby, but now dwells in the realm of a land called "tweendom". My son is a tween. That's just...not right.

I had a friend ask me the other day (after she invited us to her daughter's 10th birthday party tomorrow - her daughter is 364 days older than C), why my kids don't have birthday parties. Well, it's pretty simple. One reason is that we live way out in the boonies and our current neighborhood does not contain a lot of kids around C & J's ages. Most of the kids are teens, or really, really little. Depending on where D & I eventually find a place, that may change, but that's what it is right now.

The other reason is the school policy. School policy says that you cannot invite selected, specific children to the party. It is all or none: either you invite all of the kids in the class, or none of them. And naturally, there is no real way around this.

Now, I kind of get why they do this: it sucks to be the only kid in the class NOT invited to a party. And yes, I can understand they would want to avoid the hurt feelings as much as possible, especially in this world where kids bring guns to school or commit suicide for no apparent reason. BUT...

I have more than one issue with this. One being that it's not fair. It SEEMS fair at first glance. All the kids get invited, so it makes it fair. But, it's really not fair. I mean, seriously, people that I don't know, or that I do know but don't like or they don't like me, don't invite me to their parties. And I wouldn't expect them to. I grew up getting invited only to those parties that I knew and generally was pretty good friends with the person having the party. So as an adult, I get the concept that if I don't know you, or we don't like each other, I'm not getting invited to your party, and you won't be invited to mine. I think this whole "invite all or none" policy is going to kind of screw with that. We'll have adults running around expecting to get invited to a party that the cashier at Walmart is throwing, even though they don't know said cashier.

Another issue is this: C is in the same classroom as a little boy we will call S. In Kindergarten, C & S were in the same class, and in the after-care program together. S's mother runs the after-care program. C & S were constantly, and I mean constantly, in trouble together. Every day in class, in after-care, these two were up to something. The teacher made specific notes that they were not to be put in the same class together in future. That worked...until this year. They are in the same class. And S has gone from annoying little troublemaker to full-on bully. He's been suspended for fighting. He picks on other kids, he pushes, hits, trips, kicks, slaps, smacks, punches, teases, threatens, you name it, he's done it. C realizes this kid is trouble, and wants nothing to do with him. Now...knowing that this kid is likely to try to start a fight with one or both of my boys, and has probably in some form or another abused at least one other kid in the class, who would likely be at the party, WHY on earth would I want to invite this child to my home? I mean, seriously, that just makes no sense to me. There is a person who has never met me, but doesn't like me. She's made threats. You don't see me inviting her to my home. So why would I want to invite this kid to my home?

Those are the reasons my kids don't have birthday parties. And just to clarify, it's not that they don't have parties. They do. We have a birthday dinner, where the birthday boy (or person; the adults get it too) gets to pick what they want for dinner. We have the cake of their choosing (C chose German Chocolate this year...yummy, but very very rich), ice cream (or in some cases, ice cream cake...very convenient), and presents. It's just a family thing. The kids, me, grandparents, and D when he's home for it. We keep it as a family event, mainly for the reasons listed above, but also because it's just nice to have it as a family event instead of turning it into some big, materialistic, can we spend more money then they did monster. We even have a $20 limit on the gifts. I am trying very hard to make sure that my kids don't turn into materialistic little snobs, and I think keeping their birthdays as a family event is one way to do that.

I'm not saying that my friend's daughter will be a materialist snob, my friend and her husband are much more levelheaded than that. And I know not all kids turn out that way. But so many people today seem to think that birthdays and Christmas are all about what you get and it becomes a competition to see who gets the best stuff. I want my kids to realize that these events, and all holidays like that are supposed to be about family, and friends, and celebrating an event, not spending money and getting stuff.

I am still very much in shock over this particular birthday. I'm not sure why exactly. Nine is not a milestone birthday, at least as far as I know. Next year, when he turns 10 (I really don't want to think about that!), that's a milestone. When he turns 13, or 16, or 18, those are milestones. Then of course, there's 21. Really, even 25 kind of counts. But this year, turning 9, there's nothing super special about that. And yet, more than any other birthday so far, I'm having trouble accepting it. When he turned a year, I was shocked, but I was also super excited, because it was his first birthday, so I guess the shock was kind of blunted by the excitement. I just can't believe he's 9 now.

I've reached that point where my birthday is really kind of just another day for me. The only reason I got excited this year (when I turned 31...which I would like to forget) is that D was home for my birthday. That made it special. Going out to dinner with him and spending time alone with him made it special. Otherwise I wouldn't have really cared. I'd have had my birthday dinner (stuffed shells) and cake (ice cream cake) and my babies gave me my gifts (little bath soap sets), but it wouldn't have been a big deal to me.

C was excited for his birthday. In fact, he got mad when he realized (on Thursday) that it wasn't yesterday, but in fact, today. He was ready for it.

J broke the nosepads off his glasses Thursday night. So after school yesterday, we had to go get them repaired. As I was driving home from this, with the boys fighting in the backseat, the song "Then They Do" by Trace Adkins came on the radio. I was listening to the song, and I kind of got teary, what with C's birthday today and all, and it occurred to me that their Sperm Donor not only probably doesn't remember that C's birthday was today, but probably couldn't tell you how old he turned either.

I used to feel bad that my boys had a "father" that didn't give a crap about them. I felt bad for my boys, felt that they were missing out on something. This year, I don't feel that way. Part of it is D. He's stepped in and wholeheartedly embrace the fact that my kids and I are a package deal, a ready made family. He has no issue with stepping up to put the boys in their place if they do something wrong, or doing family things with us, helping with homework, or thinking of us as a family instead of just a couple.

I've always believed in the statement that any male can be a father, but that it takes a real man to be a dad. But given that for the last 6 yrs, the only male figure in their lives was my father, I felt bad that their "father" didn't do more. My dad is great, don't get me wrong, but he's Grandpa. He does a lot for them and with them, but he shouldn't have to act as their father. So when D met my kids and easily found a relationship with them in which he steps into a somewhat parental role, and they so easily accepted him in that role, it made me fall all the more in love with him.

I've always tried to teach the boys that family isn't just about blood. I have uncles who are absolutely no relation to me at all. They are just incredibly close friends of my parents, but to me, they are uncles because I have always been able to count on them. One of those uncles was my ex's best man at our wedding; he informed my ex that if he ever hurt me, my uncle would hunt him down and kill him. He's not followed through on that threat, but that's only because we won't tell him where to find my ex, and he knows I don't want him in jail over my ex.

I have friends that I've known for years, and even when we've lost touch, I still consider them to be like sisters to me. We're just that close.

These are things I've tried to teach my sons. And to meet a man who also understands that is such a wonderful thing. It's...comforting to be with a man who understands that family is not about being able to trace a bloodline, but about love, and commitment and loyalty. And yes, I do consider D to be a part of my family now. He has become a very important part of my life, and I would do for him what I would do for any member of my family: anything. He comes second only to my kids.

Back to my original point though (if I can find my way back to it), SD made no effort to contact C for his birthday, as usual. He, I'm sure, doesn't even realize it's his birthday. And that's fine. I've finally realized that my kids don't need him, in any way, and they will not suffer in any way because he's not around. Between me, D, and my parents, they will have enough love, enough male influences, and everything they will ever need. There is nothing that he can provide for them, nothing that he can do for them, that I, D, or my parents can't provide or do. And the boys will never miss what they don't know.

One day, SD will realize what he's lost. He'll realize he missed out on the chance to be a father, to make a mark and be an influence in someone's life. He'll realize he had that chance, and that he chose to step back, and instead someone else stepped in and gladly took on that role. He'll know that another man was happy to be a dad to my sons, and loved my sons even though they weren't his blood. And SD will have to live with that. One day, he'll be a bitter, lonely old man with no one to care about him or visit him or talk to him, because he'll have chased everyone away. And he'll have nothing else to do but reflect on the fact that things could have been different, if HE'D been different.

Maybe that's why I'm having such trouble with the idea that C is 9...maybe it's that realization that C, and J as well, are growing up so fast, and that someday they will be adults and have their own lives. And all I will have left of their childhoods is memories. Maybe I actually feel a little sad that SD won't even have those memories. I don't know that I'd say I feel bad for him, but maybe...maybe it's that I know that the opportunities to make those memories are fading fast, and I want to grab hold of as many of them as I can, and as tightly as I can. And I feel...sad that he doesn't have that same urge, and won't until it's much too late.

Ok, enough depressing thoughts for one night. Off to bed.

Happy Birthday, C!

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