By Jennifer Kuhel
On school party holidays, my funmometer runs at a deficit.
I’m not the mom who wears the red sparkly headband with the boingy spring-loaded hearts on top. I haven’t effortlessly handcrafted whisper blue snowflake-bedazzled petit fours for the non-denominational winter holiday party. Nor have I relished in rolling up my sleeves with the first graders, happily plunging into the slime-coated chaos of pumpkin carving.
I’m thankful for the parents who do enjoy these things. Really, I am. I’m just not one of them.
I’m the mom who wants to stay at home and cherish every nanosecond of silence that comes before the children disembark from their bumbling yellow chariot. I think soothing thoughts as I watch them close in on the house, each bearing an oversized construction paper-stapled envelope, its contents a menagerie of festive pencils, putties, shiny curled ribbon and every parent’s frenemy: sugar.
To be clear, I want the kids to enjoy their holiday parties. Gosh knows I LOVED them when I was a kid. What’s more, I’m not anti-sugar. After all, I’m a baker. And the kids eat what I bake, both savory and sweet. What I’ve grown to dislike is the post-partyhigh, better known as the PPH. And what I’ve found is that it continues with or without the aid of sugar.
In my experience, the PPH is a small-scale version of what happens to your children on the days immediately before and the week (give or take) following their birthdays: they start to behave a lot like the kids you’re glad your kids aren’t.
Here’s what the Valentine’s Day PPH looked like this year:
I sit alone in the kitchen, looking out the window, waving, as they enter the side door to the garage. Kitchen doorknob twists. Door swings open. Seven-year-old Anna, backpack scraping the floor while holding her white homemade party sack high, breaks the silence.
Anna: MOMMY! [Clearly, something in her makeshift sugar sack has brought her great joy. Then, in her best trilling sing-song,] “Guess what I haaaaaave?”
Me (singing in return): I don’t kno-oooooooooow…
Anna (smiling proudly, then nodding her head): FUN DIP!!! WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
She takes note of my audible sigh. And promptly shelves it.
Anna: Can I have it? PLEEEEEEEASE?
Me (deflated): Gaaaaawwwwww…. all right. But you gotta eat it over a plate and you need to keep the bag upright. I don’t want that sugar everywhere. Otherwise, we’ll have an ants crawling all over the place in this kitchen.
Anna: Ooooooh. Ants! (She pauses, then looks again to me for approval.) Are you sure? If you don’t want me to eat it I won’t. (Her face is sincere.)
Me (realizing my sagging funmometer levels): Nope. Go ahead…just please please please eat it over a plate.
Anna carries the open Fun Dip over the plate to the table and promptly starts dipping the white candy stick into the crimson granules. She is clearly happy. Watching the red dust cascade onto the table (and likely the floor) I’m not sharing her joy, but I call on my powers of anxiety repression. Now it’s the five-year-old’s turn at PPH.
Josie (not leaving any excitement behind): MOMMY! I got a candy bracelet, can I eat it? Can I? CAN I? CANNNNIIIIIIIII????
Not to be left out, the fourth-grader rounds tops it off.
Olivia (Eyes bulging, arm extended a la Barker’s Beauties, holding up an entire sleev—yes, an ENTIRE sleeve—of Hershey’s chocolate snack bars): Look at all this CHOCOLATE!!
One more thing… did I mention that my children have Valentine’s Day off from school this year? Small detail.
But rather than Scrooge this holiday, I’m going to do my best to improve my funmometer score. As the kids say, YOLO. YOOOOOOOLOOOOOOWWWWW. Besides, sometime way back when, I was a kid. A kid who wanted to eat Fun Dip. A kid who wanted nothing more than to accessorize with candy bracelets and maybe smoke a candy cigarette. A kid who would have passed out over the excitement of being given an entire sleeve of Hershey’s snack bars.
I’m hoping if I throw caution to the wind, mindfully overlook the potential messes and sugar highs and channel little Jenny, that maybe this old lady can smoke and inhale enough to see what the PPH is all about. I’m not going to set myself up for failure by planning an activity that requires careful execution. I’m just gonna join in on their fun and see where it takes me.
Worst case scenario it gets me some extra hugs and kisses and a frosted pink cupcake.
And that’s a high that might be worth revisiting.
Jennifer Kuhel is a freelance writer who lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, three daughters and a rarely empty laundry chute.