Henry attended his first birthday party, yesterday.
His siblings have been attending birthday parties since they were infants - and Henry has tagged along to several along the way - but this was the first party that Henry, and Henry alone, had been invited to attend.
It was a big deal.
I made it a big deal, because for the past four-and-a-half-years, Henry hasn't had any friends of his own. He's the little brother of the triplets. The little guy that spends every play date he's ever attended, chasing the bigger kids around. He seems to like the role of always being "it" but I don't.
I've tried to coordinate play dates for him, with kids his own age and have actually said to absolute strangers, "Hi, you don't know me, but it looks like you have a son approximately the same age as my son, you wanna get together sometime?"
There are a number of parenting challenges when you work full-time. Coordinating social activities for your preschooler is but one of them. Although it probably would help my coordination efforts if Henry was always with me, when I approach the parents of potential playmates.
The party was at 2:30 and since I needed to pick up a gift first, I had planned to leave the house at 1:00. But as it always happens, things popped up that required resolution. Like lunch for the kids. I mean, come on. Didn't I just feed you breakfast a few hours ago?
At 1:30, I realized I needed to walk out the door, right that very second, or we'd be late. And I hate being late to birthday parties. Especially when it's my son's very first one and it was only scheduled to last an hour. Including cake consumption.
So I bundled Henry in to his many layers of winter gear and we rushed out the front door, only to realize that the van was covered in snow and ice. For the next several minutes, I ran around looking for the vehicular snow removal equipment (i.e., scraper) because it was missing from where it was supposed to be and .... CHARLIE!!!!
Another several minutes later, equipment was found and I began the snow removal process. Which took some time, because I also removed the snow and ice that had accumulated on the top of our extraordinarily lonnng van when I remembered that last year, I almost crashed when a huge chunk of ice slid off and slammed in to my windshield from the not-fully-deiced car in front of me. I'd prefer to avoid unnecessary accidents.
By the time I buckled Henry in and pulled out of the driveway, it was 1:52. I have exactly 38 minutes to drive to Target - in one direction - pick out a present, wrap it, and drive to the birthday party, in the exact opposite direction. We make record time and arrive at Target by 2:02. We are then in and out of Target within eight minutes. It could've been five, if I wasn't totally distracted by all the shiny and unnecessary items on Aisle 2.
With our gift in hand, we rush out to the car to wrap it - using the paper, tape, scissors and ribbon I'd thought to bring from home. Yet another challenge of working full-time: I wrap more presents on the front seat of the car ~ on my way to parties ~ than I wrap anywhere else. I've come to terms with the fact that in my current situation, I'll never be so prepared as to have a birthday gift ready to go, more than thirty-five minutes before a party commences.
I'm cutting and taping, and beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, we'll be on time and my heart warms with the thought. But as I'm curling the last ribbon, Henry who is securely fastened in his car seat informs me, "Mommy, I have to go potty!"
Based on his sudden and furious kicking and fidgeting, I ascertain that there's no way he could hold it, nor would I be willing to take the chance. So I unbuckle him from his car seat and weigh my options. I could walk back to the store and use one of the restrooms, or I could capitalize on his ability to stand and let him aim beneath the car. The first option is considerably more civilized. The second option is considerably more efficient.
Thirty seconds later, Henry was back in his carseat and we were on our way.
On our way to ..... ?
Hmmm. Where are we going, again?
It dawned on me that I'd left the invitation on my desk and had never fully digested the address. The distinct possibility exists that where I think I'm going isn't where I actually need to be. So with fingers crossed, I head in what I hope is the correct direction.
Here's a photograph of my sweet Henry, clutching his present and wondering as we ride up in the elevator, "Mom, I sure hope you've got this right! I'D BE SO SAD TO MISS MY FIRST PARTY."
Of course he wasn't actually wondering that. It was my Mommy Guilt that assumed a voice which was echoing around my head, "You'd better not mess this one up." My son was totally happy being out, alone, with me. Had we missed the party, he probably would've said, "That's OK. Can I keep the present?!"
When we entered what I thought was the birthday venue, a man who introduced himself as the father of the birthday child, came out to greet us. When they affixed a sticker to Henry's shirt with his name, I felt very proud. We made it. To the correct location. On time.
WITH A WRAPPED GIFT.
It was truly nothing short of a miracle.
Because Charlie does all the drop-offs and pick-ups, I haven't had much of an opportunity to socialize with the other parents from Henry's preschool. So while Henry ran around playing with his friends, I made the rounds, taking time to
ambush talk with all the other parents. Focusing especially on those who have boys. Henry loves playing with other boys and seemed lost for the first 10 minutes of the party, wandering around until the first boy arrived.
I've been asking / telling / begging Charlie to line up play dates with his classmates, but the execution of such a concept is not something my husband embraces. Not because he doesn't agree that Henry should play with other kids outside of school, but because it's significantly outside of Charlie's comfort zone. As a man, he'd rather not call around and line up play dates with moms he doesn't know. I get that, which is why I mapped out a schedule of play dates for times when I'll be available, too. The way I see it, play dates aren't just for the kids. They're also a very important opportunity for parents to connect and trade notes. And since I've been out of the play date circuit for so long, I really need to do some note trading.
I didn't mention it during the party, but one of the other parents knew that we had triplets. So she told another mother, who told another of the mothers (and another and another) that I have three seven-year-olds in addition to Henry. And this prompted a wave of excitement and awe. How do you do it? How do you manage? AND you work full-time?
You must be superwoman!
Ah yes. I'm the new generation of superwoman. She's flies around with her hair on fire, encourages her son to void in a public parking lot and half the time, doesn't know where she's going. But I didn't tell them any of that.
I figure it'll give us something fun to talk about during our first play date.
Photographic evidence Henry made it to his first party: balloon and goody bag in hand.
He was thrilled. But I was even more so.