Friday, August 12, 2005


When Ross suggested we give David a surprise birthday party and Daniel thought it a good idea, I found myself faced with an interesting challenge. I don’t like doing something that I can’t put my heart behind and my spontaneous reaction to this request was that I did not want to do it. For those who don’t know the players in these stories, David is my step son who was about to turn 17, Ross is his younger brother of 8, and Daniel is hubby and Dad to them all.

I am not sure how to describe my relationship with David. Saying it is the hardest relationship I have had to endure in my life doesn’t feel like it even comes close to painting a realistic picture. If someone were to ask David for his perspective on our relationship, I would expect much the same response, if not worse.

This was really a tough one. I have made a concerted effort not to project any of my negative feelings on to Ross and I have always encouraged a good relationship between him and David. To Ross, David is his big brother and he does hero worship him, as all younger brothers do. Ross knows well enough that I love hosting parties and it would be very out of character for me to say this was not a good idea. Daniel felt that it would be a great thing to do as David has just graduated high school and because his birthday falls in the middle of the summer vacation, he has not had a party in the nearly 8 years he has been living with us. So, I took the time to get my head around this and decided to put all points of view aside, and with as much of the same feelings as I would do this for any other family member, I set out to bring this surprise party together.

There is something interestingly fascinating about communicating with 17 year olds. There is this kind of unconsciousness about them that truly has me confused as to how they survive in the world. While I am all for living in the now, fact of the matter is, we can safely assume that life does go on beyond the moment, and as much as I preach that this moment is all the reality we have, they outdo me in walking the talk. Outside of the present moment, nothing holds any relevance. For example, I spoke to one of Dave’s friends who was assisting me with coming up with the guest list. As much as he assured me everyone had been informed and was aware of the party, I would only be happy when I had personally spoken with them, or at least emailed them and had a reply.

Within a very short time lapse between getting the assurance they all knew about it, and making contact with some of the people on the list, astonished is how I felt that none of the people I spoke to were aware of the party. I reminded myself that I was being a tad paranoid when I started thinking this might be a set-up to make me look like the real wicked step mom who couldn’t pull a surprise party together. Sad, I know, but these young adults get your mind working overtime!

I followed up these phone calls and voice mails with emails giving clear instructions on what time the guests should get here and why timing was really important for the surprise to work. I asked everyone to please park off our street as the cars outside the house would be a glaringly obvious clue. I covered everything, because if I was doing it, I was gonna do it properly!

I did get a bit nervous when 20 minutes after the time I had asked them to be here, no-one had arrived. Daniel had taken David out and was going to call to check that the scene was set and make sure it was good to come home. I told him to delay their return by a further 15 minutes, and soon enough, the party had arrived.

When David stepped out on to the deck, he got the surprise of his life. He was stunned. He truly had no clue what awaited him and he was shocked. Once the expletives to register his surprise were exclaimed out very loud, he started making his way down the stairs to mingle with his friends. He commented on his way down how cool this was and that no-one had ever done anything like this for him before.

On hearing that comment, I was pleased I had decided to go along with Ross’ original idea and to be honest, proud of myself that I had managed to put my own feelings aside. It was good to see David enjoying himself, it was good to see Daniel enjoying seeing David enjoy himself and I surprised myself at how good this all felt!

I hope your 17th Birthday is one you will remember fondly, David