Cats, COVID, and Cake

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As if 2020 wasn’t bad enough, somehow last weekend I found myself riddled with guilt, wearing a cat mask, and meowing along to Happy Birthday. Truthfully, none of those things are completely out of the ordinary for me (#MomLife). But #PandemicParenting has forced all of us to make difficult choices about our family’s health and happiness in ways we’ve never had to think about before—and that included planning our youngest daughter’s third birthday.

Let me start by saying that a traditional party was out of the question for our family. Although our state (as are many others) is opening back up, my husband and I (and my anxiety) have opted for a more cautious approach. We wear masks when we go out, we maintain our physical distance from others, and I’m holding an industrial-sized bottle of hand-sanitizer at all times (if I’m being honest, I might carry-over some of these practices post-pandemic #germaphobe). So, we’re pretty mindful about who we see, and where we see them. And the upcoming birthday celebration was no exception.

For some inexplicable reason (#RaisedCatholic), I feel guilt surrounding…well, everything. And that includes my kids’ birthdays. Did we get the right gifts? Should we have more decorations? Are we making the day special enough? I even feel guilty about the actual date of my oldest daughter’s birthday—she was born two days after Christmas, and I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive myself for not keeping my legs crossed for two more weeks (or maybe it was the previous spring when I should have been keeping them crossed…). At any rate, throw in a global pandemic with physical distancing, and my birthday guilt was on high alert. This day needed to be REALLY special.

Since creativity isn’t my strong suit (I’m more Amazon Prime than Pinterest), I relied heavily on what I know best—online shopping. I may not be able to make Etsy-worthy party decor, but my trigger finger is lightning-fast when it comes time to “add to cart.” And (much to my husband’s chagrin), add to cart, I did. Barbies (complete with itty bitty shoes, sunglasses, headbands, and jewelry), (multiple tiny) Frozen toys, play kitchen food and appliances (with lots of little parts and pieces), and baby doll accessories (mini versions of all the crap moms usually haul around in their overstuffed diaper bags)—things I would normally have the sense to pass over, knowing they’d soon be littering my living room floor, suddenly made their way to my front porch in 2-4 business days. 

Then, on to the decor. Like any good party planner, I started with a theme. That part was easy—kitties. This girl is obsessed. She pretends to be a kitty, constantly, demanding to be petted and purring in response. And she’s been asking for a kitty for months, convinced she’s going to get one for her birthday (spoiler alert: she’s not getting one; but more on that later). So kitties, it was!  #ItWasLit

Our take on a DIY balloon arch… when we realized that DIY meant we’d have to blow up 100 freaking balloons to make the arch 
Nothing says “Happy Birthday” like festive disembodied cat heads hanging over the breakfast table
A COVID-safe non-traditional birthday candle (honestly, why do we ever think it’s OK to make a wish and then spit all over a cake, let alone doing during a global pandemic?)
I can only assume the image of her daddy in a cat mask will haunt her (and my) nightmares for years to come
The infamous black frosting cake…when I thought it was still a good idea.

So that brings us to my guilt. As we were gathered around the table with our newly-minted three-year-old beaming from the attention and smearing black frosting over EV-ER-Y-THING, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. She had presents. She had (creepy) decorations. She was enjoying her black kitty cake (which I would later spend hours scrubbing out of her birthday dress). But she didn’t have her kitty. The kitty she has talked about for months. The kitty she was adamant was coming on her birthday. What kind of a mother denies her child the thing she wants most in this world? Especially considering all that she’s missed out on the past few months.

Now don’t get me wrong, she loved her presents, her celebration, and most especially her cake (learn from my mistake: NEVER put black frosting on a cake for a three-year-old, no matter how much she adores black kitties). And she was thrilled with the surprise gifts, videos, and messages from family who weren’t able to celebrate in-person with us this year. But all I could think about was that damn kitty (even though she didn’t even mention it once the whole day). Cut to me later that night, frantically searching PetFinder.com for a black kitty (never mind my husband and I are hard-core #TeamDogForLife and don’t know the first thing about cats).

Luckily, my husband talked me down, and we didn’t bring a cat home last weekend (although, at one point, he convinced me to start looking at puppies instead…aaaaaand long story short we’ll be getting one of those sometime soon). While I still feel some guilt that she didn’t get her kitty, she seems completely fine with it. Maybe seeing my husband in a cat mask [shudder], turned her off felines for good? Either way, parenting is not for the faint of heart, and I just know there’ll be plenty more moments of mom-guilt in my future. But for now, I’ll just be thankful that I don’t have a litter box to clean.

What the craziest thing you’ve ever done out of guilt? Drop a comment so we can all commiserate!

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