My triplets turned five last Friday. To say that they were bouncing off the walls and swinging from the chandeliers last week is clichéd and not entirely true; it has been two years since I last came into the kitchen and found one of them hanging from the chandelier. But, they were crashing into everything, crawling on the tables, and melting down in emotional puddles.

Most kids get excited about their birthdays. Intense kids get more so. Intense triplets go wild. It was like sharing the house with small monkeys pumped full of amphetamines.

Meanwhile, hiding in his room, was my eldest son, seeking refuge from the storm and wallowing in self-pity. He is just as intense as they are. At Christmas, he leads the wild rampages. But when they have a birthday and he doesn’t, that same intensity leads him to conclude that he is unloved and never will be.

I was not able to help them manage their stresses. I was overwhelmed myself. In addition to wanting to make the birthday celebrations perfect for the triplets, I was preparing to submit pages of my novel to my writing instructor for a final critique. My nerves were on edge. My patience was thin.

The morning of the party, I was baking cupcakes with my manuscript next to the mixing bowl, still making corrections. The kids were weaving through the kitchen, sometimes elated, sometimes in tears, always emotional. The triplets had been wearing new clothes from their grandmother for two days and exploded en masse when I insisted they could not wear them to the party because they were dirty. If I was going to get back to baking and editing, I was going to have to wash the clothes before the party – an extra task on a day that already held too much.  I did eventually manage to wash and dry the birthday clothes and frost the cupcakes.

In the last moments before driving to the party venue, my husband loaded the kids into the car while I finished making changes to my manuscript and emailed the final version to my instructor.

I was exhausted and the party hadn’t even started.

The kids had a great time at the party, but I was not a good host. I had no reserves to draw on to make conversation with the parents I did not know. I let the first child leave before I remembered we had loot bags for the guests. I introduced my husband to the people he already knew, but not the people he didn’t know. I’m not sure how I made it through.

By the time I got home, I was crashing hard, and it would take me two days to recover. The triplets still had the exhilaration of present opening and the depression of realizing that important items on their wish lists had not appeared in the pile of gifts before they would eventually sleep, but they woke the next day almost recovered. My eldest had a day or two of recovery before he would find some emotional balance again.

Two days post party, my eldest taught his siblings how to play one of the board games they had been given and all was laughter and fun. After the triplets had gone to bed, there was even time for a mother-son game of Magic: The Gathering.

Somehow, we had all survived intact.


Kate can usually be found writing about writing at


4 thoughts on “Birthday Madness: When Intensities Collide

  1. Wow! Editing your manuscript AND making cupcakes! I’m exhausted just thinking about it –and all while three 5-year-old boys are running around excited about their new age and their party! Good idea to have the party at a location other than your house! I am impressed that you managed to even finish a manuscript with three five-year-olds (actually, 4, at the time) and an older one at home. AND you washed the birthday clothes! I don’t think I could manage to make my brain focus long enough. I still have a hard time with that and my kids are older and the youngest goes to school most of the day.

    Thank you for letting us know we are not alone –that it can take days just to recover from one hectic day.

  2. I’m new here and just exploring the blog and all it has to offer me as the mom of gifted kids. I haven’t commented anywhere yet, but I just have to say that I think I audibly gasped when I read that you washed the birthday clothes. AMAZING! Like Donna, I’m impressed enough that you were editing and baking at the same time, while all of the intensity was going on around you. But to actually find/make the time to wash the clothes!?!? Wow. Rock on. 🙂

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