where wildly different is perfectly normal
Stumbling under the baseline
Stumbling under the baseline

Stumbling under the baseline

I have never really been a party-planning person. Many years ago (also known as The Halcyon Years Pre-Children), I could put together a decent dinner for a group of friends…provided those friends enjoyed low-key meals on paper plates while lounging on furniture. Tom and I did once host Stranded Grad Student Thanksgiving (or was it Easter?) dinner, and that was fun, but for the most part I suck at planning gatherings.

Then I had children and it was all downhill from there.

If I remember to plan a birthday party more than 10 days prior, it’s a flippin’ miracle. I’ve been known to call parents two days ahead of time and invite their kids for cake. Last year for A’s 10th birthday, I hosted a slumber party. Ordinarily that’s not a big deal, but at the time I was flying solo (Tom was living out here with my parents while I tried to sell the house), had to keep the house 15 minutes from perfect at all times, and was barely keeping it together. Apparently I had lost my mind, because that was a batshit crazy idea. Poor J; his birthday is in the exact middle of summer, when most other kids are at camp or on vacation. His parties are a bitch to figure out. Last year I’m not even sure he got a party; we closed on the CO house six days after his birthday and I think I may have been long over the edge by then. And don’t even get me started on wrapping gifts. It’s been gift bags and tissue paper for years; it was a glorious day when I discovered kraft wrapping paper and colored ribbon. Slap it together and done.

Holidays that involve decorating or traditions are murder. I never do them right. And who decides if they’re done right? My sons. The only reason we had a Christmas tree up last year was because Tom assembled it and A decorated it…while I was out of the house. No cards sent, either. Valentines? J is lucky I saw them at Target. Easter eggs? Guilted into grabbing a dyeing kit on Saturday afternoon (when I was out getting the candy), because the boys were down coloring eggs with neighbors earlier in the day.

And I think I have finally figured out why I can’t get my poop in a group long enough to give a damn.

The baseline of intense chaos for this house, for these boys, is so high that I just cannot muster the physical, mental, and emotional energy to do anything more. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. I’d love to have a grip on holidays and fun stuff, so my boys have wonderful memories of their childhood. And don’t give me the “you’re doing the best you can” and “it’s not that big a deal” and “they don’t really care that much about it.” Yeah, they do. This also applies to family activities, outings, and anything more involved than daily routines.

That baseline just keeps getting higher. I could walk under it, and that’s saying something. The last couple of years have been crazy bad, and my energy and desire for doing anything more than the bare minimum is zilch. Heck, even the bare minimum is a stretch lately.

A’s birthday is Saturday, his party the next afternoon. An inventor party; I’m going to have old electronics for the boys to take apart and put back together in “inventions.” Maybe this year I’ll remember the camera and the cake and even goody bags with inventor tools or something. Oy.

Martha Stewart I’m not. In fact, if there was some sort of alternate universe Martha Stewart, where the maven didn’t give a damn and could barely keep her head above water, that would be where you could find me.


  1. Mindy

    You are definitely not alone. Now if you can find a way to deal with the feelings of guilt that I have about this that are almost as intense as my daughters’ every waking moments, let me know! I see other moms posting all their cutesy little Easter crafts and homemade goodies on FB and Pinterest and it just makes me want to post a picture of my half-assed baskets on Fail Blog.

  2. I have never been so glad that my son doesn’t go to school and only has two close friends as when he has a birthday – those parties are easy! My daughter on the other hand…she does my head in!

    I awoke early on Easter Sunday (and have been known to do the same on Christmas Day)…thinking…what day is it?? Oh crap! I didn’t put out the eggs/presents!! And the tooth fairy, well she occasionally forgetful – she’s pretty busy, don’t you know?

  3. Benoit

    Really, I do not complexify my life with stuffs like that.
    You have to deal with your guilt, Jen.
    Take a gun and shoot the “perfect mother” idea you’ve built in your mind. Once you’re free from it and just enjoy who you really are, you’ll feel a lot better.
    I’d like to add that I’m surprised to see how you’re “stuck” in all cultural things, you’re so trying to fit in them…Just an external point of view.

    1. Jen

      This isn’t even perfect mother stuff. It’s just basic cultural traditions. I love Thanksgiving, it’s my favorite holiday. Food and family and a parade and I’m happy.

  4. What they all said. We boiled the eggs, but never colored them. Birthdays (three of them this coming weekend!) will be at the Grandparental house, and involve three cakes, pressies (thank the gods for Amazon 2-day delivery), and making chocolate chip meringue cookies, at the girls’ request. Likely, also, a trip to the playground. Sleepover is tentatively scheduled for May (ie, I haven’t invited anyone yet), since there is NO FREAKING WAY I can get the house sorted before then (I live in VT, and need the lawn for sorting area. Yes, really.)

    Baselines we can walk under might be a more unifying element to parenting chaos-generators than even our own OE issues! Nail on the head, Jen!

  5. tammyCA

    Glad to hear I am not the only one…I have my child’s b-day party this weekend and I have barely done a thing, let alone cleaned. And, this is the first time I really don’t care – I’m burned out…I’m tossing a bunch of hula hoops, balls, and crafting stuff out back and let them play. Pizza & ice cream and bu-bye.

    1. Jen

      I totally agree with her post, and it’s why I long ago stopped subscribing to certain magazines. I use Pinterest to find gluten-free recipes and ideas for the eventual home renovation. I’ve gotten pretty good at dismissing what I know just won’t work with my family. There’s a certain reality here that no amount of wishing will change. But I feel bad that I don’t even…well, if I had daughters I wouldn’t even try the braids. My son has a birthday this weekend and that I’ve scheduled a party is a miracle. A cake, hell even a present! at this point… It’s not handmade soaps, it’s just the bare minimum for holidays and celebrations that are overwhelming.

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