I am in the midst of planning my daughter’s first ever not-at-home birthday party. In the past we’ve always had parties here at the house. I’m not a great hostess and I’m not super creative or crafty (what a ringing endorsement; don’t you want to send your kid over here for a party, now?), but no one has ever complained. I make a mean cake; I have friends who know how to whip up various party-worthy games and prizes and whatnot; and I’ve always managed to pull it off.
This year, no can do. No time. No spare brain cells. And the audience is becoming a lot more critical. What would delight a pack of preschoolers or even kindergarteners is just not cool enough for worldly 7-year-olds, you know. Puh-leeze. And judging by the amount of sleep I’m getting most of the time, creating one of my “special” cakes could be accomplished only by eschewing slumber for an entire night.
And truthfully, I’ve kinda exceeded my quota of Chickadee-inspired breakdowns for this year, already. Why add frosting and housecleaning to the mix? Much better to give some other people some money, and allow myself to believe that the resultant party will be magical, and my daughter will be happy.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Sort of.
Because, on the one hand, I found a small family-run bakery that puts on a couple of hours that no little girl could resist. They have a tea party, you see, with real linens and china. The girls get to have a tour of the kitchen and then decorate their own cookies alongside the head baker. While their cookies bake, we go play some tea party games (don’t ask me; I have no idea). The girls go home in a delightfully estrogen-rich sugar stupor. It’s a thing of beauty. And I don’t have to clean my house.
But on the other hand, I am just overwhelmed with grief right now. Planning this party feels like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I want to have a normal little girl who has a fun birthday and an uncomplicated life.
I want to think about decorating cookies, and not about the little green pills Chickadee is supposed to start taking tomorrow morning… or what those pills might do (or not do).
I want to think about how surprised and excited she might be about her new bike, and not about how I sat across from her therapist and her doctor this afternoon and fought back tears as I explained that neither of us can take much more of the “let’s see if this works” approach. “She’s not a guinea pig,” I found myself saying. “This isn’t fair to her. I’m having a hard time believing there isn’t a better way.”
I want to think about how nice it is that my ex is really trying (in his own way) to make her birthday special, and not about how he sat in the meeting with the neuropsychologist and said that if we can’t get our insurance to approve the evaluation, he doesn’t think he can afford it. (The referral will probably go through. But for him to say that—given his enormous salary—made me want to vomit. I’d already said I would find the money, regardless.)
I want to think about the guest list and the goodie bags, and not about the phrases that keep coming back to haunt me. “Not a classic presentation.” “A complicated set of symptoms.” And worse. The possible labels I fear. The wondering which is worse; the grappling with the undefined, or having fears confirmed.
I want her to be normal. And if she can’t be normal, I want her to be happy. And if she can’t be happy, decorating cookies at a tea party seems the height of absurdity, doesn’t it?
But it might make her happy. For a little while.
And it’s something I can do for her, while I’m waiting and praying that we figure out what she needs. Because—if I had a choice—I’d fix it with cookies instead of with drugs. If I had a choice, I’d fix it. Somehow.