It had been hard to keep my brave face on for the entire party. I had to act like our second celebrant wasn’t periodically running off and refusing to talk to anyone or look them in the eye.
Sarai, calm down, there must be a reason for this, and you will talk to him as if there is one. There were still guests in the hall – Lotus Flower members at that – and besides, I’d always refused to yell at my children. This wasn’t even the worst thing Eli had done – no matter what he did, I wouldn’t break that rule. I swore it to myself years ago.
Lachlan and I had become bonafide experts in ADHD since his diagnosis in January. This wasn’t it. Something else was up. By the time everybody left, I was fuming at the kid. I’d tried so hard to put together some semblance of a celebration for him – I forwent my usual carob and coconut cake in favour of something way too creamy and sweet that I knew he’d like, I invited as many kids as possible…it wasn’t perfect but couldn’t he at least appreciate it!
Maybe I’d been selfish celebrating my own…no, it’s my birthday. I’m a person as well as a mother. It was OK to do this. But I’m still talking to Eli.
“Elias Carson Hayes.” He was upstairs with one of the new toys he hadn’t even bothered thanking Bill and Charlotte for. “The party is over now.”
He just gave me the most insolent look and mimed a ‘phew’ action – wiping his forehead with an exaggerated exhale.
“Don’t look like that. What were you thinking this whole time? You didn’t talk to anyone. You didn’t even thank anyone for your nice gifts. What the hell has gotten into you, Elias?”
“Maybe I didn’t want the dumb party.” he sneered. I clenched my fists, my nails digging into my palm – do not scream. Do not pull a Clarissa. You’re better than this.
Taking several deep breaths, I continued. “I tried my best! I know it’s not exactly what you wanted but I did try! I invited some kids your age and I got your favourite cake! I’m sorry the triplets aren’t around for a party.” They got less likeable to me each year. Bart had straight up told me that they didn’t want to go to one of Elias’s parties. So I sucked it up and lied to my own kid. “But I did try, Elias.”
He shrugged and sat on his bed. I followed. “Didn’t try hard enough.”
“No, Eli. That is not how you are to react to someone – anyone – making an effort for you.”
“Fine!” he huffed. “Thanks I guess, Mom. Now leave me alone!”
I didn’t budge an inch. “Why didn’t you like our party, Eli? Anger’s all gone. I’m not mad anymore.” I was, albeit less so, and finding out why Eli was acting out was more important.
“It was your party.” he mumbled. Aha, there’s something.
“I know it was at first, but we went through this – I made it yours as well.”
“Whatever!” He jumped up and stamped his foot. “You didn’t make it mine right! All the kids were horrible! It wasn’t fun. I did try and talk properly and make you and Dad happy.” he admitted, his voice breaking down into a sob. “But it wasn’t fun and I just got sad.”
“Come here, Eli.” My heart lurched. I felt like the worst mother ever. “I’m sorry you were sad. I wish you would have said something instead of running off. But you know – if you’re sad you should just tell me instead of giving me attitude, hm? It’s better for both of us.”
“I don’t wanna be a baby.” he muttered.
“You’re my baby, and I love you very much.” I rocked him from side to side, and he didn’t even try to wiggle out of it like he usually did for the past couple of years.
“Mushy, mom.” he said with a tiny scoff. I just laughed a little.
“How about this?” I suggested. “We have a party of our own – me and you and Dad and maybe the triplets if they aren’t busy.” I already knew they would be. “Iris or Colton can watch Farrah for the night and Dad will make your favourite foods and we can do anything you like.”
He instantly perked up. “Yes! But if the triplets come…don’t, like, be embarrassing…”
“Us?” I smirked. “Never. But there’s one condition.”
Rolling his eyes, he sarcastically groaned, “Great!”
“Look at these great presents!” Everybody had been so generous this year. I was still cringing a little inside because none of them got thanked. They must think I raised a really rude kid or something. “None of the people who gave them to you know why you ran off without saying thank you, so they’re going to wonder why. If you, over the next week, write them all thank you notes, we’ll have that party.”
He sighed. “OK, Mom. I’ll try.”
“You’ll do it; I know you can.” I assured him. “Maybe we can put a little schedule on the board. There’s only…” I mentally counted. “Five. If you do one per night after all your homework, it’ll be like nothing – and you’ll have another party!”
“OK.” he agreed. “Thanks Mom. And I’m sorry I got all freaked out.”
“Thanks, Sarai. I know he liked it, don’t worry about it. I’m sorry about my tearaway kid.” Dianne was on the phone apologising for Caleb, who had spilled several drinks and tore down a set of string lights.
“It’s alright, I expected this.” I said. “Seriously, don’t worry, Di. We both know that young boys don’t always behave right – look at Eli today!”
“Yeah, but he’s not just being a shit for the sake of it. I could tell he wasn’t too happy today…I really hope he settles. This whole ADHD thing is rough on him, I think.”
“Yeah…” I sighed. My only plan for my kids is that they live happy lives, but even that simple thing seems quite difficult! “Eli hates being different like that. It’s been really hard. But y’know…hopefully he adjusts.” My son has never been good at taking big changes well. It took him a good couple months for him to even tolerate Farrah.
Of course, now he adores her…I don’t think he’ll ever love ADHD but hopefully he can accept and work through it.
“Sarai, you’re a great mom, and we can all see how hard you try. It’s gonna be fine.” Dianne assured me. “I gotta go. Brice is leaving on another work trip. Sales conference in Pleasantview. See ya!”
Now to clean up. I searched the entire downstairs for Lachlan, and when I couldn’t find him there, I went upstairs, even though I was sure he wouldn’t be there.
Except he was there, lying on our bed, facing away from me.
“I’m tired.” he immediately said.
I shrugged. “So am I. We have to tidy, though.”
“This party was your idea.” he almost snapped. Rage welled inside me. Was he seriously gonna play that card with me? It was my idea but he said he wanted this too!
“Are you serious, Lachlan?” I cried.
“OK, I’m sorry. That was really shitty. But…I am just…exhausted. I don’t even feel like I can move. I’ll make it up to you.” He pulled the covers over himself and turned towards his front.
He did look bad. He had since GreenBox downsized. I had a son sulking in his bedroom and a husband doing much the same one room over. Recently it felt like I was the only one trying in this house, spending my non-working hours holding my whole family up by a thread.