Getting Schooled

Kid birthday parties are a bitch.

Loretta and I got in a fight making the #$%ing evite. She was trying tell tell me what to do, and I proudly don't collaborate with almost-nine-year-olds! And then Loretta got up early every morning to check the evite and pronounce who was still a "Maybe" and could I call their mom today and see why?

Driving Loretta to school the morning of her party, she reminded me to get the balloons. I got mad and said I didn't need reminding.

She taped a birthday wish list to the lamp over my desk so I smacked into it when I sat down to work.

She started creating countdowns around the house two months ago, which gave me an opportunity to procrastinate planning her party and not think about whether it would be swimming, at home, just girls or boys and girls, invite sent with the dreaded evite or just a text, grandparents too (or should that be separate?), tons of candy or a self-righteous attempt at carrot sticks.

In the end, I was "God-slapped," as Emily and I like to say when we wind up being loved and and taken care of in spite of ourselves. As we were waiting around for the last kids to arrive so we could go on our scavenger hunt, I had a little tiny panic: "Oh no! I didn't think of an activity for this liminal time!" Loretta picked up one of the balloons on the floor, starting batting it around in the air, and that was that. When we were getting ready to trek to the park, I was worried the kids would be cold so I hauled out every extra sweatshirt in the house. The rain lifted, they ran around all flushed, and I ended up holding every coat I'd insisted on. Yancey looked at me and I could see the amused "I told you so" in his eyes.

I'm normally not a worrier. And I really try to practice the idea that I'm not responsible for my children's happiness. That's out of my scope! My job is to consistently love them, live out my values, teach them to work hard and how to make ethical choices. But then the damn birthday party comes along and exposes all my insecurities, fears that somehow my children won't really know how precious they are, and my total ineptitude at going to Michael's and picking out party ware.

What I fell into instead was Pure Grace. If ever there was anything to celebrate, isn't it the fact that your daughter was born? And that she's lived to see another year? And that knowing and loving her reduces you to your fragile Essence everyday?

We adults like to pretend we don't need much, and certainly don't fuss over us on our birthdays! And if we have a party, absolutely don't bring a gift! That's BS.

When I see how much Loretta celebrates herself, without false modesty or self-consciousness, I'm reminded that's how we're all meant to feel about ourselves. And that's how the Divine feels about us! Completely enamored with who we are and who we are becoming.

Gregory Boyle tells a story in his book Tattoos on the Heart that I've read aloud to groups many times. His friend Bill was taking care of his ailing father, and would read him to sleep each night.

Bill would read from some novel, and his father would lie there, staring at his son, smiling. Bill was exhausted from the day’s care and work and would plead with his dad, ‘Look, here’s the idea. I read to you, you fall asleep.’ Bill’s father would impishly apologize and dutifully close his eyes. But this wouldn’t last long...This went on and on, and after his father’s death, Bill knew that this evening ritual was really a story of a father who just couldn’t take his eyes off his kid. How much more so God? Anthony De Mello writes, ‘Behold the One beholding you, and smiling.’

Behold the One beholding you, and smiling. Happy Birthday to all of you.