It started off so well…

Nate came into my bedroom one morning, about a month before his birthday,

“Mommy…I want a surprise party for my birthday this year.” then waved his hands in front of his face and chanted,

“I didn’t hear anything…I didn’t hear anything…” as he backed out of the room.

That instantly became one of my top 3 Nate quotes. So funny.

“Hmm, a surprise party? I can do this!” I thought. “I can invite all his friends and tell their parents NOT to tell the kids until the day of because what 8 or 9 year old can keep a secret?” It looked so good on paper.

I checked the calendar and realized we were going to Anaheim, CA for the 10 days before his birthday, so I would have to throw the party 4 days AFTER his actual birthday. “No problem.” I naively thought. “I’ll tell Nate that his birthday is the trip to Disneyland and we’ll have a special family birthday on his actual day.” BIG mistake. In my attempt to make that day special and throw him off the surprise, I accidentally caused my son one of the worst emotional scars to date.  I thought, “I’ll  hang the birthday banner in the living room and hang his new Falcon posters in his room.” I actually said this to him when I picked him up from school:

“Nate! I have a big surprise for you when we get home!” meaning the posters. Hindsight is 20/20 people.

He threw open the front door, saw the banner and started looking around with the sweetest, hopeful, anticipatory face an innocent 9 year old can make. I still didn’t get it.

“It’s in your bedroom, Nate!” I cheered…happy he was so excited. He reached his bedroom in 2 strides; leaped in, ready to receive the room-full of friends.

“Look! I hung your new posters! You have a Falconer’s room, now!” I exclaimed, STILL not seeing what was really going on.

“That’s awesome, Mommy…is anyone else here?”

“Grandma drove all the way over for your birthday! We’re going to your favorite restaurant tonight!”

“Oh…uh…OK…” and he grabbed a book and disappeared into a corner. How could I be so blind?

The next day, I couldn’t wake Nate up. He’s usually the first one out of bed, wide awake, talking a mile a minute. Not that day. He was laying on the couch with a blanket over his head. He didn’t want me to look at him.

“What’s wrong, Nate?”


“You don’t seem like yourself.”

“I’m fine, (sniff)”

“You seem really sad. Are you sad?”

“I’m trying not to be sad, Mommy…” his voice was shaking, trying to hold back the tears. “but none of my friends came over for my party yesterday.”

“Your party….(gasp!)” THEN the bricks fell on my head. My poor, sweet Nate thought the banner was hanging for his party and that no one had showed up. OH. MY. DUH. I’m an idiot. This was worse than any of those horrible practical joke shows I hate because they are so mean. I had inadvertently “Punked” my own son.

“Nate, Honey…we didn’t invite your friends over. Remember? The trip to CA was your birthday party. We did all those fun things at Disneyland and CA Adventure instead of a party, Remember? We just had your family party yesterday.”

“I know, but I wanted my friends to come over and sing Happy Birthday to me…(sniff)”

I look over and Mark has tears all welled up in his eyes. My big softy. He starts mouthing to me,

“Tell him! For the love of Pete, TELL HIM!”

I mouth back a firm,

“NO! We’ve gone this far! We only have 3 more days!”


“3 more days…Never mind, just help me here!”



That was the loooooongest 3 days in the history of birthday planning. I almost told him a million times. I debated whether the happiness of the actual surprise would erase the tortured memories of “The birthday that never was.” I finally gave an inch.

“Nate, how about we go to your favorite place on Saturday?”

The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey?!!!!” He perked up.

“Yup! I have to go help Amber, but I’ll meet you, Daddy & Zeke there.”

“YES!” The corners of his mouth bent up an inch.

With the help of all my dear friends, we got the party all set up, hid everyone and the rest (hopefully) will be the history he remembers:















Was it a success? Did we undo the damage? It felt good. It felt real good.  But only time and a possible future therapist will tell…