Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Birthdays are like assholes - Everybody has one.

Five years ago, I realized I really wanted to be a mother when a close friend, C, had her first baby. She told me that she was pregnant outside of the office building that we shared. We stood, huddled together, pondering a fuzzy sonogram printout and imagining how life would change. She said that no one else knew other than her family. She is one of those friends who you believe when they say things like this.

Her son, J, is still the most beautiful newborn I have ever seen. He was the color of a valentine with lips that pursed like petals. A boy so beautiful, he looked like a girl. And still today, five years later, he has the same soft, ethereal quality that he had when he was born.

We took Chloe to his birthday party past weekend at a large indoor playspace that Manhattan parents like me use to quell anxieties about not living in the sprawling suburbs. I have not spent much time around mothers who were not my friends first. I have somehow missed the NYC subculture of Mommy-Mania, where women travel in packs of strollers and designer day care. Mobs of Manhattan moms make me uncomfortable. There is an undercurrent of competition that turns me off and leaves me wondering if I could be doing better.

But when your child is school age and a party means inviting the class, moms follow. So I was privy to more kids than I have been around in a long time. And I am reminded of Samantha on Sex and the City, who calls a baby an asshole. And I realize that she is right. Kids can be assholes. And more likely than not, so is one of their parents. I watched a child berate his mother for offering him juice. Another grabbed toys from my daughter with a force that almost knocked her over. Another pried the fingers of her playmate off a rock climbing wall, one by one, sending her tumbling. All in the name of a party. Are we having fun yet?

And that's just the kids. While some of the moms (like some of the kids) were lovely, there were others who stuffed as many party favors as possible into their purses, took extra cupcakes to go before the candles had even been blown. Impossibly small bodies were squeezed into impossibly expensive jeans as my friend C, hoarse with the exertion of party planning, smiled in perfect hostess form. I holed up near her friends from college, from her husband's business school -- the ones from before -- and held on for dear life.

And then there was my beloved J, the birthday boy, sitting amidst the chaos like the perfect prince. Much like his mother, he is a flower blooming among concrete. The apple does not fall far from the tree. Too bad sometimes the tree, and the apples, are full of worms.

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