Another Saturday with Jeremy Lin
The faces are all familiar. No names are ever exchanged; we are our child’s first name followed by the word dad or mom. The adults are all gathered together in a rented room with twelve or so children ranging from three to six years of age. With weak half smiles towards each other we search for a seat in a room engulfed by balloons and decorations.
It’s 12:15 PM on a Saturday at the YMCA in Clemmons, North Carolina. I am the giant surrounded by six little girls dressed in gowns, fake glass slippers, and cardboard paper crowns upon their heads. The ring leader of this tribe of girls, my daughter, has pleaded with me to bust out my acting chops and reprise the role of their king. I wish to be anywhere but here.
I oblige and half-ass my way through two or three minutes of playing king to their princesses. I glance down at my phone and notice only five minutes have passed since my daughter and I entered the party room. The girls are quickly fed up with my lack of enthusiasm for their dramatic rendition of Cinderella. The girls head over to a table in the corner of the room where two girls in their mid-twenties braid their hair and add makeup full of glitter to their tiny faces.
I am free now to take a seat with the adults who have long checked out, giving two-shits about what their child is doing. I grab a seat, and pull out my phone, hoping to waste the next 15 minutes between now and when my daughter asks some ridiculous request of me. As I tap the Safari button, I notice I have no service in this prison cell masked as a castle full of little people dressed in Victorian era garb. I slouch over and bury my face in my hands. I looked like my kicker missed the game winning field goal with no time left on the clock.
The miniature princes and princesses line up by the door, led by the two girls who manned the hair and makeup table. I see some adults head towards the door with their children, as other choose to stay seated. I stay put. I heard no announcement, had no idea where they were headed but knew my daughter was in the company of adults. Since I had no desire to take a tour of the Y, I was comfortable in my decision. I took advantage of the free moment, ventured outside the room, received a few bars on my phone and checked the scores from last night.
After reading up on the NBA’s latest flavor of the week, Jeremy Lin, I returned to the party room. The children are still absent as I take my seat and make small talk with Alex’s mom and exchange pleasantries with Georgia’s dad. I spot Keira’s dad entering the room, behind him a gang of children with bags of candy.
It is now time to eat, which means the countdown to the conclusion of the birthday party has now entered my consciousness. This is when I pep up and a burst of energy rushes through my body. I start to help serve the food and even have enough left in the tank to clean up plates of half eaten pizza. Pizza is the only meal ever served at preschool children’s birthday parties.
The next half hour is painful. First of all, my daughter is the only kid in the world that will not eat pizza. She won’t even look at the stuff. This is due to the fact that when she was two years old, my mother fed her pizza for dinner, and she threw up all night. My daughter hasn’t touched the stuff since. I recall a similar personal story; I was slightly older than my daughter was at the time. Replace the pizza with Aristocrat gin and the two stories play out the same.
Anyway, here is the account of the last half hour at Keira’s princess themed birthday party.
My daughter: Daddy can I have the pink balloon.
Me: Sure but let’s wait until after we eat. (I served her a plate of Cape Cod potato chips and blueberries)
Daughter: Can I have it now?
Me: After we eat, ok?
Daughter: (seated at the table) I am not hungry
Me: Then we are going home and no balloon
Daughter: Ok, daddy.
Approximately 5 minutes later, chips mixed with blueberries settling in to the pit of her stomach….
Daughter: Can I have the pink balloon now?
Me: What did I just say? After the party, got it?
Daughter: Can I have two balloons? (her fingers making the peace sign)
Me: (not really listening) yeah….
Daughter: Can I have pink and purple
Me: Please just eat, the cake is coming
2 minutes later, tears streaming down her cheeks….
Me: (Saying to myself, Jesus Christ are you fucking kidding me) What?
Daughter: Daddy, I just want one balloon, purple.
Me: After the cake, and please stop crying.
Cake comes out, Keira blows out the number 4 candle, and pieces of chocolate cake are served. My daughter finishes her cake in record time.
30 seconds later….
Daughter: Can I have the purple balloon now?
Me: Fine, go walk over to Keira’s mom and ask her if you can take just one. Now go!
My daughter makes a beeline for Keira’s mom, I stay back and have no clue what was said. She comes back and tells me “it’s perfectly fine to take a balloon”. I couldn’t have cared less if this were a lie or if my daughter even had a conversation with Keira’s mom. We darted to the table and I began fumbling around, trying to untie the ridiculous tangled knot. One of the twenty-something girls running this shindig approaches me. We had this lovely exchange:
Her: Excuse me sir
Me: Hi (Not looking up at her, fighting intensely with the balloon strings)
Her: Excuse me sir, you cannot take the balloons
Me: I’m just taking one; Keira’s mom told us it was perfectly fine to take just one home today.
Her: (Overly emphasizing the word sir) Sir, we have three other parties today and we will need all those balloons.
Continuing on with her speech….
Her: If we hand your daughter a balloon then we must give them out to each of the children.
Feeling defeated, I knelt down eye level with my daughter, and told her the disappointing news. Though she was disappointed, I believe she knew I gave my best effort, and was content with the outcome.
As we made our way out of the YMCA, my daughter noticed a sign in the front lobby. The sign displayed a list of the events and parties of the day, tied to it were a few balloons. She pointed and said, “Look daddy a purple balloon.” Without any hesitation I untied the balloon from the sign and handed it to her.
We walked out confidently, hand in hand with the purple balloon floating high above us. We did not have to say a thing to each other; our goofy wide smiles said it all. It was the happiest we had felt all day.
A week from now, the same adults and children will once again gather somewhere and repeat the same two hour festivity for Emma’s sixth birthday. I promise not to steal any of the balloons.