One of the hardest lessons a grandparent learns is how to fill seats at birthday parties for grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. Your role is to be one of the older parents whose only duty is to BE THERE.

It’s not that I mind parking it for 2 hours with my hands unnecessarily resting on my knees and a pale, empty smile on my face. What’s a party without that spoiled lady at the back table… the one with enough prescription drugs in her wallet to totally wipe out all the kids at the party?

But when my children were small, I had a function during these events. As a mom, it was my job to plan, plan, decorate and execute almost any birthday party. I had a closet full of things that needed tails pinned on. I knew where to find the best decorated cakes; layers of gummy paste that were painted with any cartoon character that was popular that year.

I could lock a banshee of kids in my van, spill their screaming contents at the entrance to Chuck-E-Cheese or Tumble Drum, carry a trash bag of goodies and goodies inside and pretend to be me. have fun at the same time.

I had to be an organized model mother for 2 hours. It was doable.

Sure. Other parents sometimes helped decorate and babysit. John cut the grass for the holidays in the backyard. Older siblings accompany supervised play and report injustices.

But it was me. Me me me. I did the Kool-Aid. Hang up the banners. I made sure that every child who entered the party palace that was my kitchen also left the palace the second I heard their mother’s car pull up in the driveway.

I sent each guest home physically intact, full of sweet craziness, and clutching a bag of favors that were oh-so-neat.

Now, I’m a grandmother-aunt-parent, the embodiment of every anonymous attendee I had ever watched through the balloon-y haze of those birthday extravagances of a long time ago.

“Who is she?” we would ask ourselves. “Is she still AWAKE?”

“She’s someone’s relative,” we finally decide. “Smile and give him cake. “

I attend a lot of parties now just to prove I’m still outpatient and can recognize the boy or girl having their birthday in the middle of a gnarled, sweaty body knot jumping into a tub of plastic balls .

My birthday present is a reluctant smile and a hug from said child, whose body is pushed towards me by verbal encouragement and eye threats.

“Go say hello to grandma / aunt,” plead the parents (in a singing style). “She came all this way to see you on your special day. “

Yes. Grandma’s Dry Kiss is a birthday boon in any children’s book.

My niece recently went for a birthday bowling alley. Uncle John and I did our duty; we personally delivered a card full of currency. A host of children were already laughing, throwing bowling balls down the cobbled alleys.

We rested in chairs next to other misfit elders – grandparents, uncles and the like.

We knew the truth. Our codger table represented a group of humans whose ages and experience combined in the birthday department could have put on a party as gorgeous and imaginative as any fancy shindig these days.

But we did not interfere. We sat down and watched. I smiled and checked our big face watches. Pretended not to notice the careless way this party was run.

Oh yes. We could have done better… back in the days when the party was mostly homemade and kids sported long-lasting purple Kool-Aid mustaches on every birthday.

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