Last night, about quarter after nine, I decided officially that I must be crazy.
Why, you might ask? Well, at that point I was in the throes of frosting a cake for my soon-to-be five-year-old's birthday party. The cake was constructed, the sides and top were frosted, and all that remained was the construction and frosting of a nightfury (the main dragon from How to Train Your Dragon, for the uninitiated). That's all.
I have this little problem with over-ambitious cakes. I blame it on taking a series of cake-decorating classes several years ago (and a current fondness for Food Network's Cake Challenges, among other things): I now have delusions of grandeur. And, since I only ever make these cakes twice a year (once for each kid's birthday), I have plenty of time in between to forget that maybe I'm not quite as talented at making cakes as I'd like to believe.
But I digress. The cake was eventually finished (at close to 10 p.m.), and this morning, almost as soon as I was coherent, I was back into the swing of things, getting ready for the party this morning. I roped my husband into helping, and by 9:30 (the party was at 10 a.m.), the house was clean, the floors mopped, the activities staged, the cake ready for display.
All this preparation: and within less than an hour four little boys had swept through all of it: the snacks, the activities, the cake . . . And I find myself wondering, why do I do this? Why do we, as a culture, do this? (I'm pretty certain I wouldn't go to all this effort if there weren't a certain amount of cultural expectation attendant on birthday parties). Of course, I have my own reasons: I'm not always the most fun, or spontaneous of mothers, and I want my kids to have some memories of me from childhood as the fun mom who put on good birthday parties; I want my son to know that I love him, and some of that is reflected in the amount of effort I put into his party (and the cake); and (if I'm really honest), I want to impress people with my cake-making abilities. (Which are by no means professional, but are--if I say so myself--at least a little above par). So, a mix of selfish and altruistic motives.
Something funny happens after a party--after all the rush and enthusiasm you're left with, what? An empty house and a mess to clean up: crumpled wrapping paper on the floor, half-eaten bits of cake on plates (and on the floor), scattered party favors. Personally, I always find the aftermath a little depressing. I don't have enough perspective on the event to savor the memory (which is usually overshadowed by the effort to pull it off); the introvert in me is exhausted; and the emptiness (and the mess) are somehow daunting.
Wouldn't it, then, be easier simply to not have birthday celebrations? Or holidays? (With Christmas looming over me--and presents purchased but not yet wrapped--I can't escape the comparison). Wouldn't it be easier to simply let the days slide past in an undifferentiated, mildly pleasant haze?
I'm not so sure. Personally, most of the time I *like* the anticipation of change. I even like the challenge (if I'm not overburdened with other tasks) of pulling together a smallish event. On the whole, I think I'd rather have a life punctuated with both highs--and lows--than one that hums along monotonously (even if that might be more comfortable most of the time). Just remind me I said this next time I find myself in a post-party slump.