I’m the mother of a, now, eight-year-old. Lately, I’m beginning to hear the words “drop off” regarding the birthday parties that my child attends. I’ve seen more and more parents come at the beginning of a party, drop off their kid, and then go and live their lives for an hour and a half, even up to three hours. Their kid quickly assimilates to the group and activity, and the parents can then go and run errands, attend their other child’s softball game, or do something even better, that I leave to my imagination. Instead, I fully, mentally and physically, attend these parties, as a parent guest, but mostly as a party parent volunteer, as after all, I am a pleaser.
My true favorite venues now are the vulnerable house parties, where I falsely anticipate that I will have connecting conversations with other parents, snack on adult foods, and watch our kids party, with my child specifically having a wonderful time. These parties are generally the worst kind, and my expectations most always fall short. I’m in the home of people I generally don’t know, well or at all, and/or, in all honesty, probably wouldn’t have chosen to hang out with in the first place. These are not my vetted people; they are parents of the children that go to my kid’s school. There is nowhere to hide at the home parties; especially when I stick out as one of the few parents that have stayed, and it is just plain old weird after a while.
These parties have become a combined experience of dread and doom for me, along with an act of love and service that I do for my child so that she can experience closeness with friends and fit in. I don’t do “drop off” with my child. I do, plan a bag of preferred snacks with protein to avoid her blood sugar meltdown, anticipating the rejected pizza slice that will sit on a paper plate, with one bite through it, ultimately leaving her especially needy and hangry. I do, adjust the tongue of the rental skates, that must be bright orange, versus the “normal brown skates” that everyone else rents, and I lace and double knot them. I do, pull down a one-piece wet bathing suit in seconds to avoid an emergency anxiety pee attack, and then sing her the Silly Willy song to distract her from the automatic toilet monster. I do, guide my child through social interactions, and then fade into the background. I do, pass out food and favors to kids, all the while hoping for opportunities to speak and bond with other parents. The ones that do stay, seem to finally find their words when just the right combination of mothers group together, away from me.
I don’t know what drop off feels like, because as a parent of a child with special needs, there is little that I can allow to drop. My child is finally thriving this year, but it has been a good 7-8 years to achieve this equilibrium. My husband and I have learned our child, lived with her challenges, and have now mastered, (okay this is an exaggeration), how to support her. Each year has improved, but with special needs come special responsibilities, that I as her mother carry with both honor and loathe. This load is heavy, maddening and lonely; yet also rewarding as can be. With tears of pain and joy, mostly shed by me, we are entangled. I hold these moments of doom and love dear, as this is the motherhood I know, and at this point in our lives, I am unsure if I will ever be able to truly drop off my child in the world, break away to go temporarily live my life, and then rejoin again as mother and daughter, at least without the tears. Or maybe tears are the entire point, and by someday dropping off, I will be letting go and letting her go to grow.