You see, we scheduled my daughter’s 3rd birthday party for a Saturday morning.
I know. It’s a shanda.
It wasn’t a mistake. We weren’t thoughtless about it. We weighed all of our options, and decided to go with Saturday morning. (I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse.) Of course, I feel compelled to explain our decision. Or maybe defend it. Or both.
We thought about Sunday morning, but we’ve just signed the baby up for music class and the big girl up for swimming. The classes are both on Sundays precisely so we can go to services on Saturdays. But our preschooler isn’t old enough to start the preschool program at our synagogue, and we only have Tot Shabbat once a month. So, we have three weeks each month when we may go to services, or go for a hike or hang out with friends, or do something else that doesn’t involve errands or electronics.
We didn’t want to miss the classes, and we decided that a birthday party in the park was Shabbat-friendly-enough for most of our friends (many of whom are Jewish, none of whom are highly observant). I sent out the Save the Date email, and almost immediately got responses from a couple of friends who can’t make it because their kids are in Hebrew School. Shoot. I feel like a shmuck. Especially right before Rosh Hashanah, just as one of my intentions (I never follow through on resolutions) for the new year is to make Judaism even more of a priority in my life, in our lives.
(I know, you’re probably thinking that there is an obvious solution to this dilemma. We should schedule the party during the afternoon. I won’t go into details, because when I tell my Mommy friends about the shockingly short window from when the girls wake up from their afternoon nap until they go back to sleep for the night, most of them want to kick me in the teeth. I don’t blame them.)
And so it begins. This is just the beginning of the rest of our lives parenting in the diaspora; of course, birthday parties on Shabbat should be the worst of our problems. But I do wonder, how do other parents balance it all? Do you cram everything in Sundays, classes be damned? Do you sometimes schedule on Saturdays, and hope that as many friends as possible can make it? Or perhaps the trick is ditch birthday parties all together: “Oh, no, sweetie. Jews don’t have birthday parties; they’re like Christmas and Easter—they’re for the goyim. But don’t worry—we get to fast on Yom Kippur, freeze our asses off in a sukkah, and gorge ourselves on gefilte fish. Happy birthday, kiddo!”
Sounds about right to me.