Monday, February 13, 2006

Common Ground, Quality Time

Saturday was my niece's birthday party, and it was AWFUL, as much as I hate to say. It was poor planning on the part of my mom to have all her adult family at the same party as her 1st-grade girlfriends at a local kiddie-pool. We were all sort of trapped in a small room while the kids played in the pool. There weren't lounging spaces in the pool area -- either you were in the pool or you weren't. The pool was shallow and full of jungle-gym style toys, so it wasn't very welcoming for grown-ups who weren't directly chaperoning a small child. But we tried to make the best of it.

A and I tried to make smalltalk with some of the parents who stayed. No one seemed interested in making smalltalk unless it was about the school lunches at Holy Rosary -- and I'm not exaggerating. One woman even relocated to the other side of the room in a "stop talking to me" gesture. We were trying so, so hard to communicate with people, but, quite literally, unless it was talk about children, they didn't have anything to say. It was as if they couldn't separate themselves from being parents -- even when their children weren't in the room -- for even a moment. The couples especially confounded me. Your child is having well-supervised fun for nearly four hours -- take this time to go on a quick date, enjoy each other, be a couple! Instead they sat grumpily in the little room, talking to no one in the room and especially not each other. It was tragic.

It was also strangely awkward with my grandmother, her husband, and my aunt. No one seemed to know what to talk about, probably because of all the silent strangers. We talked a little bit about my cousins' upcoming weddings, but that was it. Awkward silence wth bursts of a minute or two of conversation. When the girls came back in, A and I served the hotdogs and soda. The girls were great, except for my niece's friend Elle, the troublemaker, but it didn't seem the girls liked her very much so no one really followed her chaotic evil lead. Elle is a glimpse into what C could have been if she'd been raised by her mom instead of my mom (her grandma), and it's terrifying. If Elle wasn't the granddaughter of my parents' neighbor-friends and living with them, I doubt she'd be allowed to hang around with C. But all the kids had a great time.

The problem with the birthday party was a selfish one -- I wanted some quality time with her, even a little. We'd hoped to get to my parents house and give her the gift before we left, but she was gone when we got there. Instead we were unnecessary chaperones in a crowded room, didn't get to spend ANY time with C. The parties in the past have been okay because when they were rollerskating we could rollerskate too. Bowling, same thing. Chuck E Cheese, same thing. We got to have fun, too. It was an afternoon COMPLETELY devoid of fun, and that sucked. Next year, unless it's something we can actively participate in, we're just going to their house on Sunday and giving her a present then.

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