I suspect that most people have situations which give them irrational anxiety. For me, it's company. When they're actually here I usually really enjoy them, but before they come I always get anxious and after they leave I realize I am emotionally drained. The degree to which this happens depends on the type of company. Family and close friends are fine-- if I have any anxiety it's negligible. Casual friends or acquaintances give me enough anxiety that I don't invite them over very often, but when I decide to do it the anxiety doesn't get in the way. Children, however, send my anxiety levels up to something I have to really struggle to deal with. I've been working on this for the last eight years since I gave birth to a highly social child who craves company. The worst possible situation for me, which sends me into an almost paralyzing state of anxiousness, is hosting a child's birthday party and inviting a group of children over to my house.
It took me three years to get up the nerve to have this party. I tried to put my boys off again, but since Bean was turning eight (a big milestone in our culture) I decided to face my fears. It hung over my head for weeks. Every time I thought about planning it, choosing games, buying favors, or making invitations, I just wanted to go to bed and suck my thumb. But I bravely went forward.
The funny thing is, I'm actually pretty good at throwing a party. I thought I was pretty creative with the party games and everyone had a good time. On one level, I was even having a good time, even though I was counting down the minutes until it ended.
The theme of the party was submarines. Could I possibly be the only person in America who has ever made three submarine cakes in three days for non-commercial purposes?
We started out the party with a craft: decorating their own sailor hats with fabric markers. These also served as name tags, since many of the kids did not know each other. Once everyone had arrived and made a hat, we played "shark tag" in the backyard with a costume shark fin I had bought. Then we had a fish-spearing contest with Swedish fish and toothpicks. After that we played "pin the octopus on the submarine." Finally, I got out my giant parachute and we played parachute games for quite a long time. There's a lot you can do with a parachute to keep a hoard of wiggly boys busy. When I finally ran out of parachute game ideas it was time for cake and ice cream and presents. The boys got lots of really awesome presents.
At the end of the party we gave out favors. The way we did it ended up being one of the highlights of the party. The favors were simply a little squirting shark and some bubblegum gold coins in a cellophane bag. I put them all in a chest I have that looks like a treasure chest. I put this under the parachute. We all stood around the parachute and shook it while the boys, one at a time, put on a diving mask and dived under the parachute to get their treasure out of the chest.
When they were all gone the house was suddenly very quiet. It was also a wreck. The Badger earned my undying gratitude by moving the entire dining set and scrubbing the dining room floor on his hands and knees.
I just went to bed and lay there, wondering when I was going to stop twitching.
The boys are already talking about their next party, and Roo's got hers all planned out. Will these ever get any easier for me? I hope so. I want my children to have as many wonderful childhood memories as possible. It would be somewhat helpful if I didn't end up in the psych ward in the process.