We recently celebrated my son’s seventh birthday. I usually get really emotional around their birthdays. I always have. I get overwhelmed at how much they’ve accomplished, how big they’ve grown, how wonderful they are turning out to be. But this year, there was no time for tears. When my ex came over for our birthday-cake-for-breakfast ritual, I opened the freezer only to find that the ice cream cake was nowhere to be found. I’d accidentally put it in the fridge! It had melted into a puddle in the box.
Ari started to cry, but I said his name in a stern “don’t you dare” voice and he stopped pre-outburst and changed his tune. “Mama, this is still the best cake I ever had!” he said cheerfully. I poured the cake into bowls and they drank it with spoons, though a straw might have been better.
It’s still weird being together—mom, dad and two kids—and keeping up with family traditions year after year. But we do it for our kids, and it makes them happy. It’s now the second year in a row where we’ve invited boyfriends and girlfriends to the bigger party for my son’s friends. Last year I was a nervous wreck. I was anxious about us all being together in a room. About having to smile when I was actually wanted to barf. This year I didn’t think twice. My ex and his girlfriend were there, as was my boyfriend, his daughter and my boyfriend’s sisters and their families, since our kids now consider themselves cousins as well as friends.
What was most surprising, aside from my lack of nerves, was having someone to help out with the party preparations. I came to the party an hour early with my boys to set up the party room with decorations, lay out the NHL-themed table cloths and plates and pour chips and popcorn into bowls. As I was lugging supplies from my car to my room, my boyfriend showed up to help. He rushed around with me getting everything ready. All of a sudden I was at ease. I finally had someone to help. It was like a single mom’s fantasy. I never thought I’d ever have anyone to help me prepare for parties and play host to guests as they arrived. If there was ever a moment to cry, that was it. For once, I wasn’t alone. When the party was over and it was time to leave, my boyfriend’s family stayed to help me clean up. I didn’t even ask. They automatically packed away empty bowls and pizza, they carried boxes down to my car.
I may have melted my cake and lost my family in the traditional sense, but I had also gained so much more. That was definitely something to celebrate.