I survived a slumber party with six girls still using their outdoor voices at 3:30am and only threatened “don’t make me come down there again or it won’t be pretty” one time. I was once an 11 year-old girl, so I know they were just doing their jobs. Being a parent is filled with moments of indescribable joy, but I’m also reminded time and again that Karma is indeed very real.
The birthday party wasn’t something I was looking forward to. I was excited for my daughter, but stressed in the way I always get over seemingly little things like coordinating plans and interacting outside my normal social circle, which is so tiny it’s really more a dot. This is my comfort zone and I am happy there.
We started the party at a bowling alley and I worried over things like ordering enough pizza and carrying two pitchers of soda and cups and straws in one trip because it is in my nature to make things more difficult in an effort to make them easier. As I made the precarious trip from the snack bar to our lane, a dude with the most impressive mullet-mustache combo I’ve seen in some time came down the stairs from the bar carrying a pitcher of beer and stepped out in front of me. He was either drunk or oblivious, and I side-stepped him and we did that awkward thing where we walked in step for a bit. He finally stopped and struck a gleeful pose for a friend with a camera and I wished for some time afterwards that I was him, mullet and mustache and all.
The girls in our party had a lot of fun bowling. There was another party of 12 year-old boys two lanes down and I observed a lot of furtive glances and that boys interact at half the decibel level of girls. The bowling alley was hopping that night, so it was no surprise when a couple came to bowl at the lane in between. My first thought was uh-oh because they looked so sweet and childless that I thought for sure we would ruin their evening out.
But you know what? They were just the nicest people. The woman – a relaxed, smiling blond in a black hoodie and jeans – and her quiet husband took turns bowling and drinking from their pitcher of beer. The woman confided that they were enjoying the novelty of being around such a boisterous bunch since they had no children of their own. I’m sure the beer didn’t hurt, but they really were terrific sports about the whole thing.
The night went without a hitch, not including my 3:30 am hollow threat because 1) it was inevitable, really, and 2) that was the next morning anyway. I had quite a few moments at the bowling alley where I thought about beer and daydreamed how it might feel to be curled up in its welcoming arms, but I know that’s like saying I miss an abusive ex because he made the best cheesecake.
The whole night took me back to the last time we had a big slumber party at our house, which was one year ago. I was on the wagon at the time, taking a 30-day break so I could “reset” my tolerance and start drinking again like a normal person. It didn’t work (it never did), but that night I had the twofold comfort of knowing I didn’t have to worry about drinking but that I would get to resume drinking soon enough.
Before I went on the wagon that time, I had my last drink at a hole-in-the-wall place that had really good french onion soup and Guinness on tap. We had stopped there after a long morning of car shopping, so that first beer was like coming home after a long day and taking off tight shoes. I took this picture of my coaster because, well, I’m the kind of person who takes pictures of old coasters.
When I was talking to my husband last night about the party this weekend, he had no idea I was stressed out at all. I kept it so hidden I carried it alone. I never thought about picking up a drink other than a surprisingly refreshing cup of Pepsi (what is it about Pepsi from a pitcher that tastes so good? ), but I fought a war with myself just the same.
It strikes me more and more that struggling on my own is not much better than using booze to take the edge off. I have tools and I am learning how to use them and the hope that keeps me going is that this time next year it will be a little bit easier.