Why Mom’s Don’t Have Manicured Nails

 I read one time that if you don’t go through a certain psychological phase in your life that you stay in that phase until you do go through it or if you skip it, you keep repeating it until you’ve learned what you’re supposed to learn from that phase. I had a long talk with my mother-in-law after that. She couldn’t think of anything off hand at the time but she called back and told me I might be interested to know…

Apparently, when DS was 12 he had fallen out of a tree house and broken both his legs. Now I have heard about the tree house fall before but I just assumed he had fallen on his head. It was news to me to find out he had broken both legs and get this: He spent 6 months in the hospital. Why would they have kept this vital information from me? Half of his 12th year was spent in the hospital. That explains so much. He never fully experienced being a 12 year old. Everything finally made sense. The sky was blue, the grass was green, it was all clear to me now. My husband was … still12. The reality of that wasn’t thrilling to say the least. What was I supposed to do with a 12 year old husband? I suppose I could have just taken him out back and thrown the ball around with him but I selfishly wanted another adult around to help raise the kids.

I wish I had the option of the subtle approach but I faced the fact that I needed to throw him a 13th birthday party. The kids helped. We needed to hurry because it was only a few hours before DS would be back from the store. I went into party-planner mode and made a mental list of the things we would need to get done. First on my list was decorating the house with streamers and balloons, and making a cake. Pointing to the oldest and preheating the oven, I said, “Go grab some balloons and streamers out of the birthday storage box.” And to the second oldest I said, “Can you find some tape for the streamers?”

“Mommy,” said the five year old, “what do you want me to do?”

I improvised since I didn’t really have a task for her but knew that would never go over. “You are going to help me make the punch.” The baby was enjoying herself in the dog’s water bowl so I didn’t need to worry about her. I grabbed a chair and climbed up to reach the punch bowl that’s pushed way back in the top cupboard. “ See if we have juice in the fridge” I said to the cupboard but was meant to be directed at the five year old. She caught on and I could hear the fridge open. I reached for the punch bowl and on the way down off the chair I reached into the lower cupboard to grab a mixing bowl and smacked my shin on the countertop. The five year old had found some apple juice. Something that fizzes. We need something that fizzes in the punch. “Honey, look and see if there’s any soda in the fridge.”

She came back with some Mountain Dew and I made an executive decision. Since there were going to be children at the party and they already have more energy than they know what to do with, the Mountain Dew was turned down. Forget the fizz. While I was putting it back in the fridge I grabbed some eggs. Apple juice doesn’t look very festive being brown and all so I put a few drops of red food coloring in and gave the five year old the official title of ‘Stirrer’. When I opened the pantry I was relieved to find that we did have some cake mix. Thank God for Duncan Hines. I don’t know how old it was and I don’t remember the occasion we had gotten it for but who has time to search for expiration dates? I dusted it off and dumped it into the mixing bowl along with the rest of the ingredients. Sprayed some Pam on the cake pans, poured the batter in and set the timer as I placed it in the oven. The boys had come back so we opened the package of balloons and started blowing and tying. As I was blowing up the first balloon and my face turned a shade of purple, I thought, “Wow, this is harder than I remember.” I took a bigger breath this time and really went at it. I blew so hard I could actually hear veins pop. While I was trying to put oxygen back into my head by placing my head between my knees I noticed the balloon package that had fallen to the floor. I only caught a glimpse before it was accidentally kicked across the floor by one of the children. I got up to chase the package that was sliding across the floor and picked it up and re-read what I had glimpsed. Water balloons. Damn. I thought for a moment. Oh yeah, there’s some left over balloons in the Halloween box. I was off. When I got back to the kitchen the five year old was giving out taste tests of the punch and I noticed she had made an executive decision and put more red food coloring in the apple juice/punch.. “That’s enough punch, we need some for the party.” I tossed the Halloween balloons on the table and told everyone to start blowing. It was too hard for the girls to blow-up the balloons. The 5 year old tried and blew and blew with her mouth half open and didn’t want to listen to the suggestion that she turn the balloon around the other way. The baby just wanted to put them all in her mouth and the boys couldn’t tie without letting half the air out. When we had finally finished blowing up the balloons, I noticed there was only one orange balloon and the rest were black. Debating the water balloons and black balloons for a moment I decided black and told the kids to go hang them in the living room. I tossed the streamers at the oldest and said, “These too.” While I was rummaging the pantry looking for something to use as frosting I heard a balloon pop. I already knew it was the one and only orange balloon so there was no need to ask. I found some powdered sugar and although I know you can make frosting with powdered sugar, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to mix milk or water with it. I checked the box for a recipe. Milk. And what’s this? Butter, vanilla, beat until smooth. Way more time and effort than I wanted to put in. The timer went off and I took the cake pans out of the oven and shut it off. I hollered for everyone to get their coats on.

We pulled into the supermarket and I noticed DS’s car. I wasn’t sure how far along he was in getting his list done so I decided to move his car over a few isles to buy me some more time.

We needed presents and I started thinking, “What does a 12 year old boy want?” Video games. We headed to the Electronics Department and there was a sale on the X-Box consoles. I wanted to make this a birthday he would remember so I put it in the cart. The boys looked at each other and started grinning from ear to ear. I sent one to go get a Sports Illustrated Magazine and the other to get a key chain. They had instructions not to run into their father and to meet me by the frosting. I went to the Stationary Department and picked up wrapping paper. I looked at some balloons next to the wrapping paper and then looked away because we already had balloons.

I headed to the Grocery Department and the boys were waiting for me in the frosting isle. They’re such good boys. I’m glad I decided on the X-Box. I hope they get a chance to play it. We headed to the check-out and got out of the store without a hitch, we never ran into DS.

While I was pulling into the driveway it dawned on me. Now that he’s turning 13, I was going to have another teenager in the house. I almost canceled the party right then but I talked myself back into it. It’s important that children learn to help those less fortunate than themselves. The boys volunteered to wrap the presents. I wonder why. The girls helped me frost the cake. I got some leftover birthday candles and counted them out. The five year old counted with me. We had just finished putting the candles in when DS walked in the door. The kids all ran up to him, “Saying Happy Birthday Dad!!”

“Thanks, but it’s not my birthday?” He really did say that as a question. I could tell that he was thinking about it and working it out. It took longer than it should have considering this was March and his real birthday is in November. After he thought it through he had a different puzzled look on his face rather than the usual one. He looked to me for an answer but before I could the five year old did.

“Daddy, it’s your birthday and you’re going to be 13!” which didn’t exactly answer his face-making question but all the kids piped in after that. The baby was jumping up and down clapping and the boys were giddy (X-Box) so I decided not to tell him.

It didn’t matter that I hadn’t because by this time he was as excited as the kids were and started batting a balloon around with them. The celebration had begun. He was going to become a man whether he knew it or not.

With all the rush, I didn’t notice the decorating job until just then. Duct tape. I didn’t want to alarm anyone, not that anyone in that room knew the seriousness of the duct tape on the walls, so I went and got some vegetable oil out of the pantry.

The balloon batting had turned into some sort of volley balloon game and the long streamer hung across the room had become the net. I was quietly easing the duct tape off with a rag, my nail and the vegetable oil. The tape was coming off pretty well but I needed to finish getting the rest off later because the balloon batting games was starting to get out of hand.

DS is competitive and plays games to win, no matter who he’s playing with. These kinds of games get out of hand fairly quick around here. DS forgets that he’s bigger than they are and someone inevitably gets hurt. When he dives to save the balloon from hitting the floor one of the children gets in the way and gets knocked down. Luckily, it was one of the older kids and just shrugs it off. I make the announcement that, “It’s getting too rough in here and the balloon game is over.” They all grumble but I remind the kids that there’s cake and even DS perks up out of his slump. Since he was behind when the balloon game was called off his mood had changed and he was starting to pout. I didn’t want anything to ruin his birthday party so I told him he could play again after cake and presents.


We all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ but given the circumstances for this party we didn’t sing the part about him looking and smelling like a monkey. After cake and ice cream, he opened his presents and hooked the X-Box up right away forgetting about the balloon game. As they all played the X-Box I resumed scraping the duct tape off the walls and I imagined balling the duct tape pieces up and throwing them at DS because I still had a headache from blowing up the balloons, I now had a huge bruise on my shin, I have red food coloring all over my counter, and every once in awhile someone pops a balloon in someone else’s face and I have to go put the baby back to sleep. All this because he broke his damn legs when he was 12. There he sits playing his new X-Box. Having fun at his party. The party he doesn’t even know why he’s the guest of honor of. I started to fulfill my fantasy and ball up some of the duct tape. I threw it harder than I thought I could and let me tell you, it felt great to hear that smack. Now he can not know why he just got a ball of duct tape thrown at him.

I wish I had kept that article because now I’m not sure if I need to keep throwing him birthday parties until he reaches his physical age or if I need to keep throwing a 13th birthday party until he understands what it means.



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