Three years ago, unbeknownst to me, Number 4 invited her entire bus as well as her class over for her birthday party.
I had told her we weren’t having a party that year. I had tried to explain to her that having a party every year wasn’t a basic need, and that while our family would always celebrate birthdays, we wouldn’t always invite a bunch of her friends over.
I guess she didn’t really believe me.
So once I re-explained this she had a level ten meltdown and was completely hysterical because everyone who knew her would think she was a total liar.
So I caved and told her we could have a party.
And then I kind of forgot about it. Actually, I totally forgot about it.
Five days before her birthday, I sent out a last minute e-vite. Her actual birthday was on a Monday, which also happened to be a Jewish holiday, so we had no school.
I figured hardly anyone would be able to come since it was such short notice, on a Monday and a workday for most people and also a holiday for some people, so I invited 27 kids, hoping a few of them would be able to come.
By Sunday, the day before her party, I hadn’t heard back from a single person. I was relieved. We’d have to cancel the party! Phew.
I went to send out an update cancelling the party and that’s when I realized I must not have clicked the “notify me when people reply” box on the e-vite.
Because that’s where I saw that all 27 people had RSVP’d.
And 26 of them were coming.
It was late Sunday night, and 26 children (22 who I hardly knew at all) were going to show up at my house in less than twelve hours.
I had no money, no presents, no cake, no nothing.
I ended up pulling it together for under $20 the next day.
But that was the year I decided I was pretty much done with the big birthday parties.
Or any birthday parties.
And Number 4 and I moved on to the birthday experience.
In 2013, I surprised her, picked her up from school about two hours early, and I took her to get her first (and only to date) manicure.
And then, the tradition was born.
In 2014, she requested to be picked up early from school again and she asked to go walk around the very cute downtown of a neighboring town. So we did.
This year Number 4 said to me, “Mom, I want you to surprise me. Don’t tell me where we are going!”
As everyone knows, we don’t have much money right now.
So we never go out to eat. Ever.
And even if we did have a whole bunch of extra cash lying around, we probably wouldn’t go out to eat much because the kids, especially Number 6 and 7, are still at that age where you don’t know how long they will last or if you’re going to have to drag one of them out of the restaurant mid tantrum.
So while I was cleaning my office a couple weeks ago, I found this:
A friend of mine had sent that to me a long time ago. Like two years ago. I had totally forgotten about it!
So I picked Number 4 up from school at 11:30, and we headed to our surprise destination.
When we pulled into the parking lot, she totally lost it. In a good way.
“OH MY GOD MOMMY! I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO GO HERE!!! THEY HAVE BREAD STICK SANDWICHES!!! I SAW A COMMERCIAL FOR THEM ONLINE WHEN I WAS WATCHING CUPCAKE WARS ON NETFLIX!
MOMMYYYYYYYYYY! THIS IS THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!”
Again, while the stress of all this financial bullshit really fucking blows, yesterday I was genuinely grateful for it.
Because while many (most even) children in my town probably think nothing of going out to eat, for Number 4 it is a HUGE deal.
We walked inside and she said to the hostess, “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!”
And just as she had last year, she continued to say the same thing to every single person she came into contact with.
To our waitress, “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!”
To the people sitting across from us, “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!”
Everything was a huge deal for Number 4. Everything.
We walked into the bathroom and she said, “EVEN THE BATHROOMS ARE NICE, MOM!”
And then when she got into the stall and closed the door, there was a pause and then she exclaimed, “MOMMY!!! THEY HAVE TWO PLY TOILET PAPER IN HERE!!!”
And that is why I love the birthday experience with Number 4.
She appreciates every single detail of the experience.
Right down to the toilet paper.