Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Birthday Party Politics--Part 1

Back in the day, birthday parties were for family, with maybe one close friend invited. Large parties with friends and classmates were not typical for every birthday--maybe once every few years, and you didn't need a theme.

Now, of course, birthday parties are a big deal, and I don't mean just for the kids. I realized this when my kiddo was turning 3, and every year since then it has been increasingly complicated. A child's birthday party should be, within reason, the way he or she wants it. At home, at a park, or at a different venue? What flavor cake and ice cream? And most importantly, what friends does the birthday boy or girl want to invite? Ha! If only it were that simple!

I was speaking to a friend whose kids are in their 40s and she was shocked by the evolution of the birthday party, especially the stress caused by the guest list. It's normal for kids to make friends at school, but then there are kids from church, extra-curricular activities, mommy groups, neighbors, kids of mommy's friends...But that's not all--party planners must also consider reciprocating when their child has been invited to other birthday parties. These considerations make planning a party a big (stressful) deal.

For the kiddo's 3rd birthday, we treated her and a small group of her friends to a get-together at a cupcake shop. It was lovely, and it was comparable to parties we attended for her friends. After that, though, the parties got bigger and more complicated. It was understandable, though--the kiddo was making more and more friends, yet still seeing the old ones. With the addition of more guests to the guest list came the need to keep all those kids occupied. Additional food, games, crafts, goody bags...

Then the time came when the kiddo wasn't invited to a friend's party. The girls saw each other frequently and still enjoyed each others' company more than they squabbled, so my guess is that the other girl had new friends and her parents were drawing the line about how many guests they had the room and/or money to invite. I wished the birthday girl a happy birthday when I saw her, and later, when the kiddo asked about the party, I suggested that maybe it was a small party with just family. That satisfied the kiddo, but the whole experience was awkward.

Then, of course, when the kiddo's birthday came around, she kept talking about her party and asking if the other little girl was coming. Um, well, ahem, not this one...we could only invite a few people this time...yes, all of those other kids are coming, but we are way over the limit and we had to draw the line somewhere...

That was an uncomfortable conversation, but it got worse when the kiddo kept talking about her party in front of the other girl! My first instinct was to put a gag over the kiddo's mouth, but I quickly realized that wouldn't work. I would have had to tie her up, too, to make sure she couldn't remove the gag*. That would have led to an even more awkward encounter, so I took the girl's mom aside and told her that I felt like poo. This woman must have experienced similar birthday angst, because she was wonderfully understanding. After that, I decided not to let birthday party angst get the better of me. Until.....

*You really had to check for a disclaimer? It was a joke!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What I Want For Mothers Day 2014


1.  Take the 'h' out of the whine.

2.  Go a whole day without saying the word 'poop'. Or spelling it. I know how to spell it.

3. Give me one day without hearing "Let It Go".

4. Let me use the bathroom without interruptions.This includes the times I go in there just for some peace.

5. Pick up your toys and put them away. Shoving them under your bed or throwing them into your tent doesn't count.

6. No dilly. No dally. Can we be on time for once?

7.  Play with your toys. Read your books. You know, the ones you asked for? 

8. Let me talk on the phone without interruptions, made up emergencies, or counting in Spanish.

9.  No arguing or negotiating. Just for one day. OK, half a day.

10. Let me sleep in. And take a nap. And go to bed early so I can, too.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pack Your Bags! We're Going on a Guilt Trip!

We went on an unexpected guilt trip the other day!
When I picked the kiddo up from school, it wasn't raining, but I had my umbrella anyway, just in case. Well, wouldn't you know it, as we headed home, it started to rain, starting off as a sprinkle but quickly changing into a steady downpour. 

If you have ever shared an umbrella with a short person, you know that the taller of the two needs to be the one holding the umbrella. Otherwise, it just doesn't work, because the taller of the two inevitably gets whacked with the umbrella, and still ends up wet.

For some reason, the harder the rain became, the slower the kiddo seemed to walk. Surely I was imagining it, because, really, who wants to be caught in a cold rain? We were halfway home (which we can normally cover in just a few minutes) when the kiddo started complaining that she was getting wet and trying to grab the umbrella. I reminded her that I wasn't exactly staying dry, either, but if we hurried up, we could make it home without getting too soggy. 

At this point, only my boots, the cuffs of my pants, and my right sleeve were wet--salvageable with a hair dryer, right? However, the kiddo viewed walking in the rain as the end of the world. We were in the home stretch, so I handed the kiddo the umbrella and told her I would run the rest of the way. Now, I wasn't abandoning her--we were cutting through the neighbors' yard, like we always do. She knows them, and has no problem cavorting on their property any other day. Plus, we were right next to our own house. 

That was when the real water works began. The kiddo stopped, crying, and called for me to come back. I ducked under a (way too scraggly tree) and told her to cut through the yard. She wanted me to wait. I told her to come to the tree and we would run the rest of the way together. No dice. The tree wasn't offering me much protection, and now I was drenched. I gave up, and stood there, in the rain, as hot tears of frustration threatened to mix with the rain pelting my face. I had to teach a class in a few hours, and my nice outfit was ruined, and my hair was soaking wet. We trudged home together, the kiddo still fairly dry under the umbrella.

The kiddo and I usually unpack her book bag and lunch box together as she tells me about her day. This time, though, she had to do it alone as I cleaned myself up. This was not to her liking, and she let me know it. I stopped her complaining by standing in front of her and asking her one pivotal question: "Which one of us is soaking wet and miserable?" She hung her head and unpacked. 

She felt guilty, all right! She needed to learn that she she can't expect people (even me!) to accommodate her at their own expense. I let the kiddo know that I was disappointed with her decision, because it looked like she didn't care that I was wet and miserable. She made it up to me by cooperating with me the rest of the day, so yes, I think she realizes that her actions affect others. (And that even mom gets wet when standing still in the rain.)

According John M. Grohol, Psy.D., "guilt is trying to get our attention so that we can learn something from the experience. If we learn from our behavior, we’ll be less likely to do it again in the future". The kiddo has a strong reaction to guilt: she sulks and won't look at me. So while I am less than impressed with the kiddo's less-than-stellar spelling test, I choose to use guilt only when the kiddo's actions affect someone else.