Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The List of Guilt

When my oldest turned one, we had a big party consisting of mostly my ex's work friends.  They probably gave us presents, and I probably wrote them, or at least the ones I had addresses for, thank you notes.

Birthday #2 was just two of my closest Mama friends and no thank you notes were required.

My ex and I split up a few months before our eldest turned 3, so we just took the boys to Chuck E. Cheese together and had an awkward birthday.

Then Captain Emo turned 4. (Insert crazy theme music here.) We were now in the Insane Birthday Party mode, from which we have never escaped.  You know the party; some venue that costs more money than is appropriate, filled with screaming children who run all over like they are hopped up on crack and need a fix.  

Captain Emo went to Montessori school, and the children from his class sat so nicely at the table at Chuck E. Cheese. No yelling, no crying or pushing or screaming.  Nice, sweet faces belonging to children eating politely and even using napkins.  Until it was time for presents, when the sweet little Mogwai turned into gremlins with teeth and too many arms and present shredding claws.  

"It's time to open presents!" I announce, in my best happy Mama voice.

BbzzzzzzWhumpWhumpWhump!!!!  A herd of mercenary four year olds descended on the pile of presents and within 2.5 minutes every present was opened, with no idea of who had given what.  All the mothers shook their heads. 

"Guess you won't be able to send thank you notes after that!" one commented, I think.  Or maybe what she said was, "Gonna be hard to send thank you notes,"  but the Hallelujah chorus drowned her out.

When the good Captain entered kindergarten, I realized these mothers might expect thank you notes, and considered penning the following:

Dear ______,
Emo was really happy you came to his party.  He is currently building things, doing art, reading books and chewing bubble gum thanks to all of your generosity.
Emo's Mama

It carefully mentioned every category of toy he received, and the fact that I had no idea who gave him what would slyly go unmentioned.  Brilliant!  But…..I worried that other people might find this generic thank you note insulting due to their poor sense of humor and over-developed sense of manners.

First grade I told him to write his own thank you notes, and said yes, he could do them on the computer.  He could even just say "Thank you for the present," because I had very little idea who gave him what either.

I did not, however, actually make him write them.  The only time I mentioned them was as a threat.

 "You can clean your room or you can write thank you notes!" worked well for me, but not for those poor children and their mothers who checked their mailbox every day looking for a thank you note.

This year I was going to do it.  I assigned someone to make a list of the gifts, an official list done in legible handwriting on the back of a pin the tail game instruction sheet that had about 6" of free space at the bottom. And she did it thoroughly, legibly, and with style and finesse.  And I didn't accidentally throw it away. This was going to be my year!!

Here is the list, which I am still carrying around, 3 1/2 months later. Every time I open my briefcase I see it and feel guilty about it, but I don't throw it away.  I realize it is far too late to send the thank you notes now, but throwing the list away is to admit defeat. 

Captain Emo attended a birthday party for a friend last week. His mother texted me and asked for my address. I figured it was probably for a late Christmas card, but then……
……..oh noooooo!…….
…………………..THANK YOU NOTE!!!!……….
……..key dramatic music accompanied by hot flashes of guilt…. 

And the worst part of it? She's a single mother, too! A single mother plotting to send thank you notes and prove to the world that it can be done!

I have decided not to wallow in guilt, although wallowing in guilt is one of my favorite things.  I shall overcome this thank you note list!  I shall carry it around until the Captain reaches his half birthday*, then I shall craft a witty thank you note about how he still loves all his gifts six months later!!  And if I happen to lose the list between now and then…that would just be a coincidence, or, if you don't believe in coincidences, it would be a miracle.


*Half-birthdays are celebrated in my family on the six-month anniversary of your birthday. My mother invented them because my brother and I were 18 months apart, and each of our birthdays coincided with the other's half-birthday. The half-birthday child would get a small gift and not kill the birthday kid out of greed and jealousy.  My boys are exactly 2 1/2 years apart, so i have continued this tradition out of a sense of self-preservation.


  1. True friends that come to your child's birthday party does not need a Thank you card.....They need an adult play date with some Bay.

  2. Did you know that I was the one who wrote out your list?!? I am touched that you wrote this. We are human and that is the best we can be. I am sad that technology has caused us to remove ourselves from cards and notes written by hand. I was feeling crummy b/c I did not send you a''holiday'' card but I was fearful I would offend!! Lets do our best to not beat ourselves up or compare ourselves to others. I love you and your boys and I hope we get invited to many many more parties. (I can be your gift writter downer)
    <3 me :)

    1. I did know! I still have the list. Your writing is much better than mine. Thanks, I miss our playdates.


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