This past weekend we took Bean and Gracie to a birthday party for one of Bean’s classmates. Who knew that a toddler birthday party would be a lesson in the value of marriage? I had a class for my teaching certification all day on Saturday and was supposed to get out at the exact same time that the party was starting. I called Chris as I left the class and asked him to get the kids up from their naps and dressed so that we could quickly get out the door when I got home.
I walked in the front door 20 minutes later to find both the kids still napping. Which meant two things. First, I’d have to be the one to wake them up, which is like a death wish in our house. And second, we were going to be even later to the birthday party. At this point, I was irritable. I had made the effort to hurry home and all Chris had to do was get the kids ready. But there was no time to get mad. Instead, I got the kids up and Chris helped me get them dressed and ready for the party.
Turns out, the party was not only across town, but it was in the very touristy part of town where traffic on a Saturday afternoon was standstill. As we sat there in traffic with the clock ticking slowly away, I became more and more angry at Chris. At this point, we were almost an hour late for the party. It was only a two-hour thing in the first place. We had already missed half the party. Part of me wanted to turn around and go back home, but I had already gone through all the effort of a birthday party. I’d RSVP’d. I’d bought a gift. I’d dug a gift bag out of our gift bag pile in the garage and spent a whole night last week flattening it out so it didn’t look used. I mean, that’s a lot of effort! I couldn’t quit now!
When we walked into Monkey Joe’s, though, all that anger and irritation I had for Chris went right out the window. Because at this particular moment in my parenting career, I needed a wing man.
Monkey Joe’s is a giant, two-story warehouse in a sketchy part of town with tons of inflatable bounce houses and obstacle courses for kids to run frantically around. When we walked in, I literally had to grab Chris’s arm for support. It was INSANE. Kids were running everywhere, parents were running everywhere, birthday parties and large families were gathered in designated corners and party areas. And over it all, loud, banging music played throughout. Even I was overstimulated. Bean Man was terrified.
Because we were so late (cough, cough…Chris…cough, cough), we couldn’t find the party we were with, which meant we couldn’t find any of Bean’s friends. So, we ended up accidentally in the big kid area, where Bean was getting trampled by kids as big as me. He would finally get up the courage to climb up a big slide and then this big group of big kids would come trampling over him and he would panic and start crying. There were signs posted everywhere that adults weren’t permitted on the bounce equipment, but the minute I saw Bean crying and scared, I did the only thing I knew to do.
I handed my shoes to Chris and climbed my big ol’ behind up in that bounce house to save my kid.
As soon as my head appeared up in that bounce house, Bean’s little face glowed and he put his tiny little arms around me and yelled, “MOMMY! YOU’RE HERE!”
I mean, being a super hero is pretty darn awesome.
Unfortunately, Bean happened to love the inflatable slides and so I spent most of the rest of the afternoon climbing up and sliding down with him. I felt ridiculous and I was sweating like a pig, but what else was I supposed to do?
Later, they announced our party group over the intercom and we headed to the party room for pizza and birthday cake. It was at this point in the afternoon that I learned that at toddler birthday parties, often there are surprise “guests,” who are often large, purple monkeys. When these “guests” appear, all toddler party guests will begin crying and screaming and crawling up and over their parents to get away from the giant cartoon “guest.” Bean thought that Monkey Joe was the scariest thing he’d ever seen. The entire time Monkey Joe walked around that birthday party, basically scaring every child there, I was thinking, “For the love of God, Monkey Joe! Go scare someone else’s birthday party! SAVE THE CHILDREN, MONKEY JOE! SAVE THE CHILDREN!”
All in all, it was a big hit. Bean finally found his friends and so we followed them to the three-year-old play area, which was much better suited for wee tots. He spent the afternoon chasing his classmates and calling out to me and Chris 5,000 times, “Watch this, Mommy! Watch this, Daddy!” And in between his rounds down the slide, Chris and I even got to meet some of the other parents and get to know them a bit. It was pretty nice. Although, I was about 10 years younger than any of them and so I’m fairly certain they thought I was a teen mom. I wanted to preface every conversation I had with someone by saying, “I’LL BE 30 THIS YEAR!” or “I OWN MY OWN HOME!”
When it was time to leave the party, Chris was carrying a very tired, very happy Bean and I was carrying a very tired, very hungry Gracie out to the car. We buckled them into their car seats and headed home.
In the years that we’ve been together, I’ve been to a lot of different parties with Chris. High school parties that he used to throw at his house. College parties that I used to drag him to. Engagement parties and wedding showers. Grad school dinner parties and housewarming parties. Baby showers and first birthday parties. I guess after all of that, it shouldn’t really surprise me that when I stand in a crowded, loud warehouse of inflatable slides, birthday cake, and screaming children, that he’s the one standing by my side. After all this time, that really isn’t a big deal, I guess. But riding home that afternoon from the birthday party, I squeezed his hand and said a prayer of thanks for all the different parties that are in our future and for the fact that I’ll be attending them all with him.