Bringing Up Baby: Donuts and Disappointment … Four Lessons From the Botched Birthday Party

By  May 14, 2014


I have a lot of friends in the parenting trenches and though that time has passed for me, (now, we are firmly planted in the “teen years”; and you thought terrible twos were bad) there are moments from it that I remember as if they were yesterday. One of them was my son Cole’s big birthday celebration.

Now, as you parents know, the birthday celebration consists of two parts; there’s the home celebration, with family and a few friends. And there’s the school soiree where the birthday child is hoisted on a chair and paraded over the land, with the loyal subjects (classmates) chanting their love and admiration. Or just cupcakes in class. Yeah. That.

So when Cole was turning 8 in the second grade, he asked me to bring donuts to class, in the shape of an 8; of course, since you only turn 8 once, regular, old circular donuts would never do. Besides, Matt Krause’s mom had done the same. Dammit.

I did my research, ordered the donuts, called the day before said donuts were to be picked up to make sure they were going to be there and so on. In other words, I took care of business.

So when I arrived the next day to pick up the donuts, they were there, right? WRONG! Oh, there were donuts there.. just not MY donuts. Some other, fried and frazzled mom had come in right before me and took the number 8 donuts I ordered, instead of the number 9′s she was supposed to.

I felt faint. I felt weak. I was going to disappoint my son in ways unimaginable and that I’m sure no parent had ever done before. (Okay, a little melodramatic but stay with me here.) THINK WOMAN! What could I do?

I had two options; I could rush over to ShopRite and grab cupcakes, which would be suitable but not what he wanted. Or, I could take the number 9 donuts in, apologize for what was not my mistake but just a screw up and make the best of the (bad) situation. I opted to do the latter. And when I showed up, balancing two boxes of donuts and a handful of napkins, my little birthday baby was grinning like a Cheshire cat. Happy. Content. Here’s why.. and the 4 lessons I learned from that day.

It Was Never About the Donuts
Cole couldn’t have cared any less that the numbers were wrong. Why? Because it was never about the donuts. It was about me being there; a chance for him to puff out his non-existent chest and show everyone that he mattered enough for his mother to celebrate with him.

My Kid Learned How to Handle Disappointment
When I got to the class, I gave Cole a heartfelt apology, explaining that sometimes things just don’t work out the way we plan. He’s always been sort of an easy-going kid so he gets over disappointment pretty quickly. He took the box of number 9 donuts and passed them out to his friends,  thrilled to be sharing something so important with them.

I Learned What Was Really Important
Yep. See number 1. I think sometimes as parents we get so caught up in the minutia that we miss the big picture. I could have gone to his class carrying fried liver and lima beans and he would have been glad to see me.  Keep an eye on the big picture; everything else will fall into place.

Everyone Survived
Repeat after me: It’s all going to be okay. Even then I knew it wasn’t the first time things would get screwed up and I was even more sure there would be many times when I was the one screwing them up. But what seemed a big, damn deal actually wasn’t; the sun came out the next day, my child was not relegated to the land of urchins with sorry parents. He was still celebrated on his special day and later we laughed about the great donut debacle.