(SIDETRACK: That "huge kudos" intro was totally my subconscious mind crying out. I just finished lunch, my sweet tooth is screaming at me, and all I have in my desk drawer is a couple of those tiny little 100 calorie Kudos bars. Tasty, but not nearly substantial enough. Evidently, somewhere in the uncharted recesses of my brain, there's a part of me that would like to mush about 8 of those things together into a huge Kudos bar. Yum.)
Erin's graduation party was this past Saturday. And, as we celebrated Erin's maturation and her educational accomplishments, it was only fitting that Erin, in her own way, managed to teach the grownups a lesson.
See, Erin's mom and I both care deeply about making sure the kids are loved, valued and cared for. Great goal. Problem is we don't exactly travel the same roads to get there. And the result is that I don't think either of us ends up doing as good a job as we'd like.
The kids are aware of the tension, and it shows – to the point where they get visibly agitated when they're faced with a situation that they know is going to bring the two of us face to face. (And God forbid we throw in any circumstances that might bring their mom face to face with their step-mom.)
So this winter I started asking Erin what she wanted to do for a graduation party. My first thought was to spare her (and, yes, spare myself) that face-to-face tension.
Did Erin want to have two separate grad parties? That's what Josie did two years ago (for totally different reasons). At first Erin said yes, but then rethought. That sounded like a hassle.
How about a party at a neutral, third-party site? We rented a park pavilion. Surely both families could coexist peacefully when no one was defending turf, right? At first Erin said yes, but then rethought.
She just wanted to have the party celebrating her graduation in the home she's lived in since kindergarten.
We were going to have to be mature.
And, leading up to The Event, there were some touch-and-go moments. Erin's mom didn't trust that I wouldn't steal or defile her photo albums. I didn't trust her enough to agree to go halvsies on the budget.
I admit it. Leading up to this Saturday, I was scared shitless – to the point where I was probably feeling more sorry for myself than I was feeling excited for Erin. So I did what I needed to do to brace myself (demanded that my parents attend and stay for the whole event, begged my sister and a couple of good friends to make appearances...) and I forcibly realigned my perspective. I was doing this for Erin.
(NOTE: It should be pointed out that the true icon of selflessness in this scenario was Corinne. She did NOT sign up for this degree of BS, but she was there – for Erin and for me – helping out and enduring the death stare with patience and understanding. Heroic performance. No question.)
And it went wonderfully well. Erin floated between camps graciously. Her mom (and, probably just as accurately, her brother) did a great job getting the garage and the lawn all cleaned up and ready for a party. And everyone was, at the very least, civil! I won't say it was without awkwardness (Corinne being stalked on her way to the bathroom – presumably to make sure she didn't steal the silverware?), but everyone came. And everyone came for Erin.
It was her day. Her achievement. Her party. And the rest of us can just grow up.