Scarred not Scared

How To Be A Midlife Dad Without Going Postal: A Manual

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Dueling Households-PARTY TIME!

My youngest son just celebrated his 6th birthday, and in the same fashion we have done during major holidays & birthdays for the past 3+ years, he had two parties: one at our house and one at his mom's house. For the first time since moving into our current school district (this is the middle of our second school year here), he had the same friends over at each party. His mom did the typical 'Disneyland' parent thing by taking them all to a Galaxy Cheese Mountain place to play arcade games. Beats the heck out of sitting down with excited 6 year olds and actually partying with them, huh? Hell, I'm surprised that these chains haven't figured out the concept of building a bar/adult restaurant that overlooks the games and Ball Play area so that the parents can be themselves instead of pretending that they LIKE to sit on crappy benches while their young ones scream from across the room" Mommy, Daddy LOOK AT ME!!" These D-land parents could also avoid the always embarrassing scene of their young ones determinedly tugging on their hands "COME PLAY WITH ME!!" while trying to drag them into the Human Habitrail. Ever notice all the parents staring intently into their cell phones these days when they are out with their kids, trying to look as if their have VERY IMPORANT THINGS TO DO, when they are actually playing tetris, making shopping lists or reviewing some upskirt shots they took at the mall last week.

Actually, I adore the parties we have for the boys at our house. My fiance and I always get invovled, making good food, baking cakes, decorating and trying to figure out some games to play. I think we've used the same Star Wars plastic printed table cloth for 3 birthdays now [time to retire it? Ehn, we'll see… 8¬\ ] This year's 6th Year Olds party was great: we made invitations that I hand delivered to the homes of our would-be guests. The theme this year was "Sponge Wars"--Megan made a terrific image that had Yoda next to a six-armed Sponge Bob who held a light saber in each hand (hence the suitability of the tablecloth--um, er…sorry: 'tableplastic.') We made goody bags with fruit gummies and gum in them (no toys this time) and Megan made a punch of Sprite and rainbow sherbet (tastes better than it sounds or looks). The little individual cakes were Sponge Bobs!! The little faces she made with that gel icing were very well done, hysterical and the kids all loved them.

The kids had such fun, happily screaming and laughing, jumping up and down; it was a blast. And cost us very little money. And we got to know these kids pretty well. Many of the other families in our district have more than 2 kids, so none of the parents took us up on our invitation to stay and hang out--most of them used the opportunity to chill, take another of their kids to another function or who knows [maybe get a lil' PM some, some? LOL Doubt it!] The only small blight on the weekend's events was an unanticipated one: several kids brought my son presents to BOTH parties. Crap, I didn't mean for that to happen. In our house we don't place a major emphasis on the cost or number of gifts, usually setting a preferred gift givign limit of $10. Our kids have always seemed happy with what they get no matter the simplicity or cheapness. As a matter of fact, Megan and I often joke that when our boys express interest in something prohibitively expensive [READ: ipod Nano, Xbox 360, etc.], we can always depend on my Ex's side of the 'family' to go over the top on spending. So next time I will let the guest kids' parents know that double gifts are NOT necessary. It almost seemed as if the ones that did that were a little sheepish about the whole "Two Households/Kids of Divorced Parents" phenomenon.

Our situation is kinda unique I guess: the true shared parenting arrangement of Dad's house Sun-Wed and Mom's house Wed-Sun every week seems to really work for the kids, with almost no apparent disruption or relocation stress. We never experience them wanting to stay with her when it's time to come to our house, except for a couple of times when my youngest son would get a bit clingy with his mom, usually a result of being overly tired [she does not enforce early bedtimes] or not wanting to leave a video game (she lets them play unattended for hours and hours). Once in a while they will, however, express regret about having to leave our house to return to hers, but we do NOT encourage that. Secretly, we delight in it!!However, we realize it is a funtion of our house having routines, early bedtimes, lots of adult involvement and home cooked meals, versus the free-from nature of days at Mom's House. Jesus! I think we're becoming a 1950s household! Well, as Fifties as we can be considering I gave my 9 year old son a cheap MP3 player and loaded with Greenday, The Killers, Cake, The Ramones, Jet and assorted other goodies. Ward Cleaver indeed.

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