Posted on June 18th, 2018
Not long ago, pH went to a birthday party and was abso-freaking-lutely sure she had the perfect gift. I ordered it under close supervision, its delivery was closely monitored and timed, and my wrapping skills were called into question at least twice (justifiably–I am the person for whom the gift bag is invented).
Anyway. Big party. Looked forward to it for ages. Perfect gift.
You probably can see where this is headed.
I showed up five hours after dropping her off to discover the party was not yet over, pH was upset and not quite winning the brave face battle, and the birthday girl even made a remark in front of me about how it wasn’t what she wanted. Apparently she’d made more pointed comments before I’d arrived.
It’s probably best I didn’t show up any earlier.*
Friends letting you down is a life lesson, as is having to sit through the remainder of a kiddie birthday party when your child is miserable: by the end of the afternoon, pH and I had both racked up a steaming pile of life wisdom. I asked Facebook (being careful; I’m not friends with the parents, but a couple of friends are) if they had any advice, and it ran the gamut of my gut instinct (hello, manners?) to the thoughtful (this is a learning opportunity) to the speculative (hello, parenting?).
Life lesson processed, still–the one moment that keeps replaying in my mind was when the girl’s mother said–when we were alone, watching kids playing outside–that her main failing was “not being able to say no to my little girl.”
I’m not sure if that was a sort of apology, a sort of explanation, or just a random remark while we made small talk. It was just so foreign to me. I thought saying “no” was the one big rule of parenting. While I’m sure I’ll give pH many, many opportunities to seek therapy as an adult, my failure to say “no” won’t be one of them. (Also, I’ve been working with pH on becoming comfortable with saying no to others, in respect to her physical self and situations that make her uncomfortable. If she doesn’t want a hug from me, I want her to tell me “no.” It’s her body.)
That said, I’ve yet to make sense of it.
(I would add no thank you note, no belated apology from any party, and I was the only parent who insisted on my kid thanking the hostess before we left, but you probably already guessed that, too, and adding it would be petty. Oh, whoops.)
*I don’t know how I would have handled it in the moment if it had been pH who was ungracious toward a guest. I would like to think I would have managed the situation, making the slighted kid feel better and pulling my kid aside for a come-to-Jesus about how we react to gifts even if they aren’t what we wanted/expected. (I do know that if I’d done this as a child, correction would have been swift and public and embarrassing. Talking to my brother about it later, we reminisced about our favorite techniques of demonstrating gratitude in the face of bizarre gifts; we had it down at a very, very early age. And we were the rebellious two.)