Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's My Son's Christmas Party and I'll Cry If I Want To

This past Thursday my goal was to make it from Charlie's preschool to the car without breaking out into the ugly cry in the school parking lot. Why the tears you ask? I missed Charlie's Christmas party at school. I didn't just miss it. I had no idea it was even going on. I went to pick up Charlie from school and his teachers met me at the door, their arms overflowing with Christmas presents. I should've known something was up right away. "There she is!" they exclaimed when they saw me. I was a few minutes late, but nothing major, not late enough for the halls to be deserted and Charlie to be the only kid left. He was already in his coat, his school bag in hand. Wait a second. The teachers were meeting me at the main door of the school. Usually I pick up Charlie at his classroom door. What was going on? "We tried to call you," the teachers said. "Charlie's Christmas party was today." Apparently there was an email sent to an email address that was one dot off from my email address. I had managed to slip in and out of Charlie's school every Monday and Thursday without hearing one word about a party. I kissed Charlie's head about a million times and hugged him over and over and said I was sorry. He seemed perfectly happy. I don't think he really cared too much that I wasn't there. He said, "Mommy" with a big smile on his face each time I hugged him. I carried him out to the car and bit my lip to keep from crying. As soon as I buckled him into his seat and closed my car door, I burst into tears. Not just any old tears either, big loud sobs. Toddler-style crying. Charlie was perfectly fine. Why was I so upset?

I felt like the worst mom on earth in that moment. I tried to imagine what might have gone on at a two-and-a-half- year-old's Christmas party. Were there cookies? Was there singing? Maybe there was some kind of dance party that broke out? I will never know. Charlie's not exactly helpful when it comes to recalling details. His teacher kept reassuring me that she took lots and lots of pictures. Somehow, that does not make me feel any better. It's like if my best friend didn't invite me to her wedding, but she said it was okay, she'd taken lots and lots of pictures. I know, I know...a preschool Christmas party is not exactly a wedding, but still. I felt horrible. I felt angry at the teachers for not telling me about the party except through email and I felt angry at my email address for having a stupid dot in it. Really, though, it wasn't anger I was feeling. It was guilt. I tortured myself by imagining what the other moms must have thought of poor, little orphan Charlie. What kind of mom doesn't come to their two-year-old's Christimas party? The worst mom on earth. And that's me.

I picked up Emma from school and the sobbing continued. She pleaded with me to stop crying. I told her why I was crying and she said, "it's okay, Mommy. We can have our own party." Don't you just love that? I called my mom and my sister and they both assured me that I am not the worst mom on earth and that the beauty of two-year-olds is they don't remember stuff like this. Thanks to the wisdom of these fabulous women, I'm slowly getting over it. Now, I can look at it as a learning experience. I think the guilt was not a completely irrational emotion. I should have been more involved in what was going on at Charlie's school. I should have been more proactive about communicating with the teacher. Charlie had to wait until November to start school because of some weird rule the school has about not having too many kids under 2.5 years in school at once. Something about a building code? I guess if too many kids under 2.5 are in the building at the same time the building could explode or something. Probably a good rule come to think of it. Anyway, Charlie started school after all the other kids and so we have been sort of out of the loop about things. I didn't realize the teacher was communicating with me by using the wrong email address this whole time. It would've been nice if the teacher at some point had said, by the way, I've been sending out emails...have you gotten them? But really I blame myself. So, the lesson I'm taking away from this is, when it comes to schools and teachers ask lots of questions, be involved, and don't wait around for them to tell me stuff.

Later that night Brandon and I attended his office Christmas party. This was my third year to attend the party and I am always impressed by the effort they put into the party planning. This year the theme was "Candy Land" and so the main ballroom was all decked out with 7-foot candy canes and giant peppermints. This was a much more normal theme than last year's "Christmas in Space" theme. Last year I remember hanging out with Brandon in one of the lounges, staring at a giant holiday spaceship and calculating how much each minute was costing us in babysitting. Are these themes really necessary? Isn't "Christmas" sort of a theme in and of itself? It's nice that they try with the themes. I do appreciate the effort. The other constant with these parties is the band. The band sings all those wedding favorites like "I Will Survive" and "Holiday" complete with hand motions. This year I noticed the hand motions lacked a little joi de vive. They seemed more like sign language than dancing. Speaking of dancing...there was also a DJ at the party. I noticed something very interesting. When the DJ first started playing, a few people immediately lined up and started doing what I think must have been the Electric Slide. Within seconds more and more people crowded the dance floor. People of all creeds, ages and ethnicities lined up to do this dance beneath the glow of a giant red and white striped peppermint. Have I missed something? Is this a thing? It must be. Yet more proof that I am totally out of it.

The office party also involved lots of standing around in high heels (which I have not done since the last Christmas party) and talking to strangers that my husband works with. I am so bad at this. That's one of the many reasons I married Brandon. He is good at talking to people in these situations. Me? Not so much. Do I really have to come up with something we have in common and try to yell it to you over "Let's Stay Together," guy that works two doors down from my husband? Can't I just watch the people doing the electric slide and daydream about how I will write about them later in peace please? But at least there was a chocolate fountain. I am sort of a klutz and I'm always afraid I'm going to stick the marshmallow or whatever I'm dousing in chocolate into the chocolate fountain in such a way that it will cause chocolate to spray all over me and my fancy Christmas Party dress. Still, I can't resist sticking something in the chocolate fountain. The chocolate flows so freely and so endlessly. It really is a beautiful thing.

The next day was Friday and we were stuck at home waiting for various repair people to come to our house. I was hobbling around because I was actually SORE from wearing high heels the night before. How sad is that? And I call myself a lady. But I did redeem myself, sort of. I read the kids the Christmas story from their kids' Bible and we put together this Playmobil nativity that my mom sent us (thanks mom!) and talked about baby Jesus and the "fairy" (aka angel), and the donkey. (The fairy and the donkey figure prominently into Emma's telling of the story, I'm afraid.) We also painted our own wrapping paper. I cut shapes out of a potato, envisioning that we would stamp Christmas trees and ornaments all over our white paper and it would be too adorable and crafty for words. Instead, Emma felt inspired to strip down to underwear (except for fairy wings) and paint her entire hand and then sort of used the wrapping paper like a big paper towel. Charlie (who was wearing a green frog costume) kept painting big blobs of paint and then sitting on them for good measure. You can't get in the way of the creative process I always say. I let all this happen and even sort of encouraged it. Not bad for the worst mom on earth.


mdm said...

Not to worry. You're not the worst mom. Not even close. I am the worst mom. Why? I'm not a mom of any kind. I'm not even a female. See how much of a mom failure I am and how much better a mom you are? OK, maybe you don't. How about this: bad moms wouldn't recognize why they should feel like a bad mom even when they weren't?

Anonymous said...

I loved your sorry about the school party, but two year olds are so forgiving, especially when they don't even realize you're suppose to be there!
You certainly have a talent for telling a story. I laughed out loud at parts and felt your pain but was most impressed you made it to the car before you began sobbing. I would have done it right there in front Charlie and the two people left in the building!

Ramona said...

I missed Gillian's party last year too. I think I just didn't know that it was something parents were supposed to go to. This year, I was ridiculously early for it... But maybe instead of being so early, I should have been shopping for her teacher. I watched in horror as her teacher collected gifts from other children. I tried to make myself feel better thinking how lovely an after holidays gift from Williamsburg would be. I can't even pretend I've got it even halfway together, even at the holidays :)!