The Guest List

If you don’t already know about the Guest List, then I’m sorry to have to tell you, but you’re probably not on it. And don’t get me wrong—you’re probably better off NOT being on it. Who wants to hang with a bunch of sugar-high 5-year-olds at Nate’s birthday party anyway?


Because yes, the Guest List is Nate’s concoction.


You see, Nate runs hot and cold when it comes to emotions and relationships. People are either his best friends and rewarded with an invite to his birthday party—the one that he’s planning five months from now—or, he hates them and they can never, ever come to his birthday party. Ever.


He even ranks us, his parents. This morning, he told me he hated me for making him put his socks on. Fifteen minutes later on the way to school, when I confirmed that I had indeed packed chocolate chip cookies in his lunch, I received a huge hug and told that I was the “best mom ever.” Jealous?


Nate told me once, early this summer, that I wasn’t invited to his birthday party. Who knows what I did to deserve that, probably made him pick up his dirty clothes or turn off his Kindle or told him to stop stealing the red Starbursts from my once-secret candy stash. Anyway, I laid out the fallacies of the statement: that I’d probably be the one paying for and organizing this party, thus I should probably be invited, and he’s never threatened that again.


In retrospect, that would have been an easy out for me. Imagine if I could get an afternoon to myself while Tighe supervised a dozen or so kids at Chuck-E-Cheese! Or the bowling alley…or “open gym”…or the zoo…or the children’s museum…the actual plan for Nate’s party is as malleable as his Guest List.


In fact, had I actually been taking note of who was and was not invited to his birthday party, I’d be on my third legal pad by now. It’d be covered in white-out and eraser marks and scratch-outs and barely legible. I’ve heard him denounce kids for taking a book he wanted at school, or not sharing a sip of juice box, or being a girl—just the punishment these kids deserve for minding their own business!


Meanwhile, he awards these same friends Guest List Honors because they invited him to their parties, or because they like Ninja Turtles (almost) as much as he does, or because they just had a great afternoon on the playground together.


And he proclaims these rewards and punishments loudly and emphatically. “Fine, you’re not invited to my birthday party!” I’ve heard him shout that—loud and with vigor, but without much consequence, similar to the way the U.S. condemns Bashar Assad—dozens of times. Or, “[Insert name here], you’re invited to my birthday party because you’re my best friend ever!”


The best part—my favorite part anyway—is that the other kids usually don’t care. His birthday is in February (because Tighe and I only conceive in May, but that’s another blog for a different audience), and he’s been menacing his friends with the Guest List for about four months already. Most kids don’t even understand what’s happening four hours, or even four minutes, from the present moment. He might as well be promising them a spot in his bunker when the moon shatters into tiny pieces that blast through the Earth. It could happen, look it up.


Fear not, I’m not reading too much into his moodiness—he’s not the next Pablo Escobar or OJ Simpson, suddenly “offing” loved ones who offend him [note to self: CTE is dangerous, Nate and Sam will not play football, must start wearing helmets to soccer/karate/playgrounds].  However, he might be laying the groundwork for some Boss Tweed political favors later in life. Assuming the U.S. is still a democracy then. Assuming it’s still a democracy now. But I digress.


Anyway, “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” is a mantra that works in politics, business, entertainment, etc. I’m not claiming that Nate has the brains or ambition to be leading our country some day, but he does have charisma. And he knows how to manipulate. So, when you go to the polls in November, I don’t care who you vote for—well, I do, but it’s not my business—maybe take a moment that day to do something nice for Nate. Send him mail, bake him some cookies, play Ninja Turtles with him. Because believe me, he’ll remember those things. He always does. Just stay in his good graces. Anything to get on the Guest List. And off of his Hit List.