This weekend we celebrated one of my kid’s birthdays. A party for our child that has a hard time fitting in. Her birthday always plunges me into a state of anxiety because every party “no” rsvp breaks her heart.
And the truth of the matter is that it’s not always because the kids don’t want to come. Life is busy and the weekends are a time when parents cram everything they can into forty-eight hours including having parties and family get togethers of their own.
But then there are the kids who don’t want to come just because they don’t want to come. Those are the hardest to cope with. Every year we go through the rejection and I’d like to say it gets easier every year. It doesn’t.
This year I suggested she invite five friends to go see the Lego movie and then a visit to Build-A-Bear with a grand finale of pizza and cake at our favorite pizza joint.
A hard invitation to turn down, right? I freely admit that I make her parties as enticing as possible to encourage participation. I’m not beyond bribery when it comes to my daughter’s mental health. I know I’ll catch flack for that. So be it.
Two of the five girls invited said yes. And even though she was disappointed that three said no, I emphasized how awesome it was that two said yes. Sometimes I feel like I’m more of a cheerleader than a mother.
A cheerleader trying to stay cheery when our team is getting our butts kicked by the opposition. Big plastered on smile, pom poms frantically shaking and praying for that hail Mary pass that will save the game.
Sometimes parenting feels like a sporting event, doesn’t it?
The party day arrives. I anxiously check the weather and guess what? You’ll never believe it. We are expecting a blizzard. Another one. Will this winter ever end? The only thing that keeps me sane is that the brunt of the snow is not supposed to hit us until late that night.
The party is at 2:30pm, so we are safe. Or so we think even though the snow is falling at an alarming rate.
I pile the girls into the car, get to the theater and breathe a huge sigh of relief when both guests arrive safely. I want to hug their parents. We head into the movie theater and everyone eats an alarming amount of candy, popcorn and soda. And they love me for it.
As soon as the credits are rolling, I rush the kids out of the theater because we only have a half of an hour between the movie and dinner which means we need to stuff those bears in a jiffy.
We leave the theater only to find that the mall is closing due to a snow emergency. The movie ended at 4:55 and the mall was to close at 5:00. And with that realization I announced to the girls to RUN to Build A Bear. Which is exactly what we did. And by some miracle we made it just before they shut their doors, panting and probably looking a little crazed.
At this point I needed a vodka tonic, but sadly their is no bar at Build A Bear.
Once the bears were stuffed, we braved the elements to the pizza parlor. Thank God I drive a SUV and also that I grew up in Michigan where the snowstorms make New England storms look like flurries. I know how to drive in bad weather.
The weather guessers were way off this time and we were driving in the worst of it. Had I known it was going to be as bad as it was, I would’ve rescheduled the party. But there was no way of predicting how fast it would get ugly. And ugly it was.
The kids had great fun at dinner, but I was too busy worrying about the parents safely reclaiming their kids to enjoy it.
As I sat at that table watching my daughter laugh and chat with her friends, I thought about the risks we take as parents. And I’m not talking physical risks either.
Truth be told, I would’ve canceled the party had I known just how bad the weather would turn. No smile on my daughter’s face is worth risking her safety or her friend’s and their family’s safety.
I’m talking about mental risks. It would’ve been so much easier to hold a family party someplace super fun just to guarantee that she would have a good time. Maybe a stay at a hotel with an indoor water park. Or snow tubing at a local ski resort. You know, an activity that would guarantee no risk of rejection.
Inviting peers to a party is a dicey thing when you have a socially awkward child. There are no guarantees that anyone will come. It’s a huge risk that’s hard to take as a parent. Our instinct is to protect our kids at all costs.
But sometimes you just can’t protect them. And that’s where they learn life’s greatest lessons. Rejection isn’t an easy lesson to learn, but it is inevitable. Hell, I still deal with it myself and it doesn’t hurt any less than it did when I was a child.
But as a parent, that’s when you grab those pom poms and furiously shake them. Even if you’re faking it. Making your kids look at the positives when they can’t see them. Even if you can’t see them. Parents also need to be great actors too.
In the end it all worked out. It took an hour to drive the seven miles from the pizza parlor back to my house if that gives you any idea of how bad the roads were. I’m so thankful that the party guests got home safely too. God bless those parents for not being afraid of driving in snow.
I’m also thankful that my daughter had a good time.
She won’t remember me hitting refresh on the weather report on my laptop hourly the days before her party. She won’t remember me stressing over whether or not those two “yes” kids would get the flu or have a family emergency which would turn them into “no” rsvps. And she won’t remember my white knuckles gripping the steering wheel during that awful drive home that night, silently praying to God that he would protect us.
She will only remember the fun parts and for that I’m so very thankful.