It was a grandiose plan. The kind I have a tendency to speak out loud before knowing where the resources will arrive in order to implement such whimsical notions. It wasn't practical. Soon, I would have to pay up. I put it out of my mind while we traveled in the first part of June. But once home from vacation and the laundry done, I needed to get to work. I also needed help.
Remember when I wrote about Happy Mail? It was my plan for keeping the household in a state of peace while four children negotiated loudly and fought for everything, including bagels with the most raisins, to the biggest slice of watermelon. To ease tensions and save my sanity, I gave them an incentive. Every day, if they were able to work out their problems peacefully and without hurting their sibling's bodies and feelings, they would receive a small prize in their mail box. We called the reward system "happy mail." After a while, I got frustrated with making little handmade trinkets every day and switched to tokens. I told the children that all the tokens they earned would be put in a jar and that when the jar was full, we would do something fun together. I was initially thinking about about a pizza outing or roller skating. Then, one day, we had a meeting. What could we do together that everyone would enjoy? Someone, (was that me???) suggested a back yard kiddie carnival with games, handmade prizes and treats.
Like I said, sometimes I am inspired by grandiose ideas and then have to make good on my promises.
I wasn't thinking that our carnival would arrive in the middle of a 100 degree weekend. Due to negotiations with custodial care and a swim team schedule, this weekend was the only one that worked for the children. Richard sweated buckets, but mowed the lawn and helped Elliot and I set up everything we had worked on during the past week. Since this carnival was low budget, we used boxes, scraps and found items to build a mini golf course and carnival style games. Richard set up the pool we bought last year, and one hour before the carnival began, we were finally finished and ready. It was so hot that the balloons we used for a dart game kept popping from the heat.
I had conflicting feelings about spoiling the children, even though everything was made using something we recycled, except the food. Richard was cranky, and feeling a little bit resentful. It was a lot of work. I watched him work and grumble, appreciating his continual gift of love and sacrifice. I am grateful to him and the way he got over his sour mood to enjoy the evening, in spite of the sweat and earlier irritation. I am continually thankful to him for accepting me as I am, imperfect and impractical in my creative and whimsical lifestyle.
When the children arrived, there were smiles and wows, laughter and the noise of splashing. The handmade gifts were hugged and played with. There were games of skill, yet everyone won something. Our new neighbors with their sweet two year girl joined in the fun. There was a table spread with hotdogs, chips, veggies and a beautiful white frosted coconut cake that the children's mother brought. Everyone stayed late and went home tired and happy.
Then a storm blew in and Richard and I, after a long, long day, rushed into the back yard to collect everything that threatened to be blown away and damaged by the rain and wind. This actually saved us from having to clean up the next day, which was also in the 100's.
Today I am tired...and thinking about the fact that in six days we will do this again for Elliot's eighth birthday.
I could have done it differently, all of it. But then I think about the memories we are making, and how much Elliot's life is enriched by his friends. His cousins all live hundreds of miles away, as do his grandmothers, his sister, and his uncles and aunts. It could be a solitary kind of life for a boy who is home schooled as well as living like an only child.
I am fully aware that it would be easier to pay for a party hosted and cleaned up by someone else, or not have a party at all. But this is what I love to do. I love to make things, share my time, and celebrate these moments of my son's growing up, before that day arrives when the gift he'll appreciate most is a check and a card, or a phone call from far away.
So, Richard if you are reading this, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping our son to have a vibrant, busy, fun childhood. That you are involved in Elliot's childhood everyday, guiding with love and support while also teaching important values and behaviors is something I celebrate inside. I'm so thankful to be living and sharing life, parenting and our happy home with you.