September 15, 2005
My college friends Jordy and Michelle are throwing a party -- a birthday party for their 1-year-old son. That's right, my former party 'til the break of dawn dormmates are hosting a luau for their little one. This should be good.
I walk into the Hawaiian-themed rager and am overwhelmed. It's like Tot Shabbat with leis. There are a dozen kids playing on the floor. How do my friends even know this many crawlers? Where did they find them? I can only imagine they rented them from the party store along with the tiki bar and folding chairs. And who are all these new mothers?
A pretty girl who's pregnant with her second asks if I know Jordy and Michelle from Mommy & Me.
I respond by downing a stiff drink.
Yes, they have beer and margaritas and try to make the party feel normal for nonbreeding adults. But that's just it. Normal parties don't try to be anything "for adults," because adults are the only people there. But this party has babies on board.
I look around the Romper Room to see if my other single friends are freakin' out. Nope. The girls are cooing over the pint-size noisemakers and the guys just seem to be happy that they're no longer the only bald ones in the room.
Maybe it's me.
I just don't get why people throw parties for 1-year-olds. The kids don't remember it, the adults don't enjoy it -- and let's be honest -- all anyone really cares about is what's in the goody bag. (A sand pail, plastic sunglasses and Pepperidge Farm Cheddar Flavored Goldfish. Score!) It's not that I don't want to watch a 12-month-old get chocolate butter-cream cake on his face, it's just that....
OK, fine, I don't want to watch a 12-month-old get chocolate butter-cream cake on his face. I don't want to hear about the adoooooorable thing he did for the first time yesterday. And don't get me started on watching the birthday boy open his presents. Moses floated down the river with nothing more in the world but the basket under his backside, but this kid now owns two walkers, a Radio Flyer and a mini-NASCAR ride-along -- just to get from one side of his playroom to the other.
I don't want to judge. Jordy's in accounting, Michelle's a teacher, and they love their suburban townhouse, kid in the family room, dog outside, "Honey, I'm home" life. I'm happy for them; I'm just not sure how to act around them. Half the time, I need an English-baby talk dictionary just to understand them.
When it comes to kids, there's a Red Sea-style parting between the haves and the have-nots. My friends have become parents. Grown-ups. That used to be another word for alien. And maybe that definition still holds. I don't know who they are anymore. Someone has secretly replaced my pals with Folgers Crystals.
I can no longer relate to them; our lives are worlds apart. We have nothing in common. I make men wiggle; they watch "The Wiggles." I hit the bottle, they heat up a bottle. To me, a pump refers to a high-heel. To them? Don't ask.
We interrupt my wallowing to bring you birthday-party baby races. That's right. Relay races with diaper-clad kids. After cake and gifts, the proud fathers line up their tots at one end of the room, their kids' bottles and mothers at the other. The first one to cross the bottle line wins. Maybe it's exploitation, but it's not as bad as something King Solomon suggested.
And it made me look.
In Lane 1 is Mike "the birthday boy" Berger. Lanes 2 and 3 have the Stevenson twins. Madison "the rookie" Rosen warms up in Lane 4. The defending champ from the last birthday bash is Aidan, who fills out Lane 5. Bets are placed, rules established and the kids are off. On your mark, get set: Crawl!
Aidan doubles back in the wrong direction, one of the twins stops short and starts to cry and birthday boy Mike crawls across the finish line first. I hear Jordy shout, "That's my son!"
That's when it hits me: My friends may have a kid, but they're still the same crazy people they've always been. It's not the kids who have made things awkward; it's my reaction to them.
Which is something I vow to change. I enjoyed my first, first birthday. Or at least more than I expected to. It was fun to see Jordy and Michelle; it was tremendous to see them so happy. They really seem to like this parenting thing.
And maybe, someday, I will too.
But not anytime soon. To Jordy and Michelle, a good night is one the kid slept through, but to me -- don't ask.
Free-lance writer Carin Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.