Today was a tough one.
After feeling completely extraneous at Owen’s last birthday party, and upon hearing a few weeks ago that The Ex and The Girlfriend were making big plans to singularly host Amelia’s 4th birthday party, I made yet another decision that nearly choked me: I offered to co-host the party with my two least favorite people in the world. In reality, there really wasn’t much of a choice there. I figured: (A) I could be completely omitted from my child’s party with her friends; or (B) I could make a stink about their unilateral planning and usurping of the party without any prior consultation; or (C) I could step in and offer to co-host and pay half of the party they were already planning. I chose (C), figuring that at least I wouldn’t miss out completely and hoping that by co-hosting and sharing the expense I wouldn’t feel like a mere Plus One.
I paid the 50% deposit for the petting zoo party at their house; they paid the 2nd half due after the party. They did invites and goodie bags; I did cake and juice boxes. As Amelia opened presents, The Girlfriend and I each made gift lists and then we split the thank you note duties. Amelia chose which gifts she wanted to keep at her dad’s house and which gifts she wanted to keep at mine. The guest list was comprised of Amelia’s preschool classmates, the parents of whom The Ex and I know equally, and Amelia’s dance class classmates, the parents of whom I have never met (because The Ex and The Girlfriend chose the dance class, enrolled Amelia, and scheduled lessons on their custodial day).
There were moments I felt like an outsider, but less so than before. I had to introduce myself to half the parents, but they were more gracious and less shocked by our joint presence than at the last birthday event. The party was at their house, on their turf, where they were comfortable but I was … much less so. The Girlfriend is 7 months pregnant, visibly round and obviously basking in the fullness of her 30-year-old life. All I could think about, all day, was how that’s exactly how far along I was when The Ex started cheating on me … with her. I kept remembering how, when Amelia arrived 4 years ago, she played thoughtful co-worker and sent homemade cookies to our family to celebrate the birth … and then continued to privately celebrate that birth with my husband in a very non-traditional and devastating manner. And I kept marveling, as I always do, at the way in which she took my exact life and made it hers.
I thought these things, but privately. Several friends and family members had offered to come with me for moral support, but I declined. I wanted to do this by myself, because … I am by myself. I didn’t want The Ex and The Girlfriend to have the satisfaction of knowing how difficult it was for me. I didn’t want to look like I couldn’t do it alone. Because I can. I can do this thing. I. Can. Although I occasionally felt on the verge of tears, I smiled with shiny eyes and just tried to enjoy the day with my daughter. I acted as though this complete and utter nonsensical bullshit of a situation foisted upon me and my children was fine … I acted as if it was normal. It’s not—or it shouldn’t be—but it is. It’s our normal and it’s going to continue to be our normal so … suck it up.
One more thing. One more milestone. One more chink in the armor. One more doing what is best for the kids. One more letting them get away with it. For this: