In social work, we’re engaged in some pretty serious business. Assessing for safety and risk, helping people cope with crises, trying to tactfully explain why your parenting methods are a nightmare and therefore so are your kids. It doesn’t seem like an atmosphere for fun. But we’re also trying to help people preserve their families and hang on to their children. Sometimes a big part of this is learning to spend time with one another, and to enjoy it.
Therefore, party planning serves a therapeutic purpose. Despite the fact that it’s started to drive me a little insane.
Planning a party is always stressful. Actually, coordinating any activity for more than four people is usually a pain in the ass. What time works for you? Oh, but that doesn’t work for her. How about Wednesday? Oh no, she works late that day. Let’s eat at this restaurant. But we need gluten-free options. Let’s forget it and everyone stay home.
Here at Anonymous Agency, I enjoy throwing parties. It’s fun. Families come and act like families. They eat together and meet people in similar situations to themselves. The kids can play and do arts and crafts. No one turns on a TV or video game for two hours, and the kids discover that this has not, in fact, killed them.
Of course, something always has to come up.
It’s known that I enjoy the parties. Everyone else in the office is happy that we have the parties. As I mentioned, it’s fun, and if their families come in, other staff members get to count that time spent making hand turkeys and snacking as a contact.
Notice that other staff members benefit from these festivities? Remember that. It will come up later.
I think it’s pretty much standard in office culture that if you volunteer to do something once, you become the Person Who Does That Thing. “Oh, SJ, she’s just so good at loading the printer paper.” Huh? Three years ago, I offered to make an Easter party invitation. I snagged some free clip art, pasted it into a word document, wrote “You’re Invited” along with the pertinent information. Now, whenever we have any kind of an event, this is my job. I am the one who knows how to do it. I’m the one who knows how to google and type. Also print.
I’ve also found that, the more people that get involved, the worse things tend to go. Or maybe it’s just that horrible people got involved in the past, I’m not sure. They got very persnickety about doing things their own way. having the food that they wanted, budget be damned. It kind of got away from them that we were doing this for the kids. “I know you really want chicken, but we can only afford cookies and juice, and I’m pretty sure the eight year olds will be cool with that. Are you holding your breath until you get your way?”
So this Easter, a coworker and I met under cloak of darkness to make a pact to plan the party. We decided that we would dye eggs, make Easter baskets (to be filled with candy, which must be hidden from SJ until the last possible minute) and serve some simple refreshments. People were, of course, welcome to help run the party, especially since their clients would be participating, but that’s what we would be doing. Nice and easy.
Nice? Rarely. Easy? Never!
First, I emailed New Director with our ideas for the party. When we would hold it, how many families would be invited, what activities we would have, and what our budget would be. Because New Director can never just say, “sure!” she approved our idea, but objected to calling it a “party.” “Could we say something different? Perhaps an event, family affair, treasure hunt?”
‘Event’ is boring, ‘Family Affair’ is a 1960s sitcom, and treasure hunt makes no fucking sense because we aren’t having one. I wrote “celebration” while cursing her under my breath, because I am amazing at compromise, and left it at that.
But, of course, it wasn’t left at that.
My supervisor sent out an email asking that people come to me if they would like to help. We got zero responses. I have, however, had the following helpful tidbits leveled at me in the past two week:
- “The party goes until six? But I only work until five.”
Well, that is a pickle. I have no idea how to tackle that one. I mean, you could just work an extra hour and not be an asshole about it. You could even come in an hour late. Personally, I would lean towards not being an asshole, but whatever.
I can’t remember the last time I left at five. Caseworkers be trippin.
- “I don’t understand why we aren’t serving dinner.”
Did you miss that whole thing where we have no money? Like, none. I’m sitting here cutting up Easter baskets out of construction paper. People eat too much these days anyway. Fruit and crackers never killed anybody.
- “Who is boiling the eggs and where will they be boiled?”
That was an email from New Director. The lady who runs the agency. Ma’am, I sincerely hope you have more important things to worry about. I also hope that you don’t think that your employees are so stupid as to not realize that we don’t have an oven here.
- “What about Passover? Why is this only an Easter party? I don’t celebrate Easter, I’m Jewish!”
Well, I’m an atheist, but I’m not going to insist that the children all sit in a circle and listen to Tales of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This isn’t about us. It’s an Easter party mostly because none of our clients are Jewish. But fine, you want to do something for Passover, go right ahead. Oh, you don’t want to do anything, you just wanted to bitch? Cool.
True story: this particular comment then led to the coworker telling me that she is personally offended by anti-Semitism (um, pretty sure we all are, because we’re not terrible people) and giving me a detailed explanation about the reasons that she is culturally, but not religiously, Jewish. I would have told her I didn’t care, but I think she would have felt that was anti-Semitic.
- “Can the Easter egg baskets be bigger?”
As the hours tick by until the party begins, I have a creeping feeling of dread in my stomach, along with a bunch of excitement. I mean, I love our Easter party. The kids (and the parents) get so excited about dying eggs, it’s amazing. It drives me a little crazy that such a great
event treasure hunt celebration is tarnished with petty infighting, people being lazy, and coworkers being too quick to criticize. I also need to remember that I can be a little bit of a control freak, and I need to let it go. All of this stuff we do, which does include dressing up in bunny ears, is for the kids.
We just need to keep our eyes on the (delicious chocolatey) prize.