Birthday Blunder (aka Somebody Muzzle This Mom)

On Saturday I took Kostyn to his first non-relative kid’s birthday party. The birthday boy was turning 2, so I knew Kostyn would be around kids his own age and have a fantastic time. I also knew I’d be around parents my own age, and feel as socially awkward as ever.

I don’t know why it’s so difficult for me to chit-chat with other parents. You’d think it would make casual conversation easier, to have that built-in “How old is he/she?” opener that parents everywhere use. The tricky thing about The Parental Opener is you have to be the one to start it. Because if you’re the one to start it, then the conversation’s next topic is completely up to the other person. Observe:
Mom 1: “How old is she?”
Mom 2: “She’s 3. How old is he?”
Mom 1: “He’s 2.”
Mom 2: “Ahh...” See, if Mom 2 doesn’t have anything else in her momversation arsenal, then both parents smile and nod and the conversation sputters and dies before it even really began.

In short: If you’re shy like me, it’s critical to be Mom 1.

I knew this going into the day’s festivities, and I was determined to be social, jovial, perhaps even interesting. I was going to have real conversations that lasted more than 20 seconds. I just had to make sure I was Mom 1.

My first and only attempt didn’t go so well.

Kostyn wanted his face painted, so we headed over to the face painting table and that’s when I saw her: A mother bouncing a baby in her arms while watching a little girl getting her face painted. I figured she’d make for easy conversation since I had a baby at home. Brilliant! A segue into something more than The Opener!

As soon as we arrived she jumped the gun and claimed Mom 1 status.

“How old is he?” she asked, smiling.

“He just turned 2,” I replied, then looked at her daughter, whose face was being painted to the nines by a 7-year-old. “How old is she?”

“She’s 5,” Mom 1 replied.

“And how old is he?” I said, gesturing toward the baby to continue this ridiculous yet standard age game of verbal ping-pong.

“Seven months,” she said, smiling and swaying and looking down at her plump little boy.

“Awww,” I cooed like an idiot at both of them. But wait! I had more to say! “I have an almost-5-month-old,” I added.

I smiled then, proud of myself for this nugget that threw the ball right back in her court. “Oh!” she said, clearly not ready for more volleying.

And then I did something stupid. I kept talking.

“Yeah, I didn’t want to bring him out with us because it’s just so hot today,” I said.

[Shut up, Robyn.]

“Mmm,” she said, not sure where I was going with this.

“Ya know, it’s just too hot for a baby to be outside,” I continued, right before it registered that she was there with her baby. Outside.

[Stop! Talking! What is wrong with me?!]

And with that, I inexplicably insulted the same woman I was trying to befriend.

Her smile faded and she glanced around while I mentally kicked myself repeatedly. The thing is, it wasn’t even totally true. Sure, Evan gets hot quickly, and he gets fussy when he’s hot, and things can get ugly from there. But I’d mostly left Evan home with Chris because I wanted to spend some quality “just Mommy and me” time with Kostyn, which is hard to come by these days. I honestly didn’t mean to admonish her. I am (mostly) a live-and-let-live kind of mom. I didn’t care where she brings her kids or at what temperature. She was just Mom 1 to me.

So, I did the only thing I could do at that point: I blamed Chris.

“I mean, not every baby, but MY SON gets fussy. Abnormally, really. He’s like his father I guess,” I said with a little fake chuckle.

It didn’t work, of course. There’s no way to recover from insinuating that a total stranger is in any way, shape or form a bad parent. She wasn’t overtly pissed, but the conversation definitely faded (once I was able to shut my trap). Luckily the rented Bounce House was opened for business just then, so Kostyn and I left the face painting line and shuffled off in that direction.

I spent the rest of the party talking to Kostyn, who is not easily insulted, and one or two other moms there who I’ve met before. I avoided Mom 1 like The Plague. (For the record, I also spent the rest of the party sweating my butt off. Hello, it was freakin’ hot out there...)

I drove home talking to myself about all of this, which is pretty much what I should stick to until I can carry on a conversation out loud that doesn’t involve stammering and backtracking and fleeing the scene.

I suppose at the end of the day our time at the party was a success: Kostyn fell asleep on the way home clutching his red balloon, face paint smeared across his cheek and cupcake icing all over his chin.* In a 2-year-old’s world, that’s pretty much heaven, and I loved seeing him so happy.

So how old do they have to be before you can drop them off at parties and avoid everything (and everyone) but the “happy ending” part?

*I so wish I could post a photo of this degree of cuteness. Alas, our camera is broken, which is driving me crazy, but not crazy enough to actually put it in the mail and send it back to be fixed. Must get on that......


Kristen said...

David is 9 - and he usually gets dropped off at parties now. And I am glad. It actually seems like the parties are slowing down at his age, which is GREAT.

But, I have to tell you, the social awkwardness does get easier as they get older. The more they are into, the more there is to talk about (and complain about).

For instance, I can complain about the cost of lacrosse stuff with other lacrosse parents, which you would THINK would be awkward because - hello - you are talking about money - but it just isn't. It's more of the "look at how we parents have to sacrifice so our kids can have fun."

It does get easier. KO will have his own interests and you will get yours back, I promise. David gets like 4 phone calls a weekend for play dates and is constantly going to people's houses. It is great. :)

I wish you were here so we could do playdates together. I'd talk with you about anything!

Kristen said...

Oh - and PS - I made EL do a lot of the birthday parties when David was young. He was happy to and I was happy NOT to.

Kristen said...

PPS - And, Bounce House? Face Painting? Sounds like a cool party!!!

Heather said...

OMIGOD! Robyn, this is hilarious and pretty much sums up how I am with new people. One time I was talking to someone about a movie set in the 80s. I kept saying, "I didn't get it. I thought it was dumb. But that could be because it was really before my time." And, no, I didn't stop with that comment; I kept on, "You know ... I was, like, in second grade when those events took place. I'm too young, you know?" The woman I was talking to was in her late 40s. When it dawned on me what I had said and how I came across, there wasn't a shovel big enough to dig me out of that one!

T.J. said...

I love the post Robyn. While "Mom 1" and "Mom 2" are both tough roles, you should try being in that conversation as Dad 1......pure agony.

I will relay this story from my oldest daughter's kindergarten "graduation" this year (don't even get me started on that topic). One of the mothers said to me "I can't believe how emotional I am. I can't even imagine what I will be like..." and before she even got to finish the sentence, I said "when it actually means something". Needless to say, she made a face and the conversation ended there. I guess that was my way of ending the inane banter before it even got off of the ground.

Heather said...

And this would be why I don't socialize much. :)

Robyn said...

Kris - Wait, David has 4 playdates a weekend AND you have time for your own interests? I'm guessing your interests must be "listening to the radio in the car" and "driving in weekend traffic," what with all that shuttling! ;) Oh, and I wish we lived closer too. Definitely.

Hoef - I KNEW you'd have a similar story to tell. :)

TJ - See, I would totally think that as Dad 1 you'd have it made, because I've seen moms fall all over themselves complimenting a father who comes to a party (or a playground, or the grocery store) with his child. (Don't even get me started on how we as a society still hold mothers and fathers to different standards when it comes to parental involvement.) And I hear ya on the kindergarten 'graduation.' U-to-the-gh.
PS - Please don't make me eat those words in 3 years..... :)

Heather - We seem to do just fine online with moms we've never met ;) ... why can't we translate that to real life??

Lyn said...

I suddenly feel like an underachiever since Leah is 3 years old and we've never been invited to another kid party! Oh well...

Wouldn't it be nice if live conversation could be a few seconds slower so you could hit delete before the words popped out of our mouths?