My daughter excitedly joined in to sing a boisterous happy birthday to her friend at school this week. She’s all about the good times. It’s an apple-falling-not-far-from-the-tree sort of thing.
She went straight up to the birthday girl (who is a sweetheart) and asked, “It’s your birthday! You having a party?”
Making an awkward situation even more awkward (another apple-tree situation), my daughter continued her line of questioning with, “I can come to your party?!”
Talk about putting this poor girl on the spot.
She is having a small party—only one child from the class was quietly invited. This is totally cool and completely acceptable. But my party girl just couldn’t understand this, and she couldn’t let it go. For the rest of the day she kept bringing it up, stuck in a loop of disappointment. Classmates began stepping in to say gently but firmly, “Avery, you’re not invited. Okay?”
On the way home from school, my girl burst into tears, explaining about the party and that she couldn’t go sobbing, “Why can’t I go toooooo?”
All parents have these dagger to the heart moments but I have to say, parenting a child with a disability seems to result in daily doses of daggers… dammit.
Trying to explain why she wasn’t invited was pointless. She didn’t care why. She was only interested in why not. So I went the distraction route. It goes like this and works quite well in a variety of impossible situations.
“You really want to go to the party.”
Identity the problem.
“It sounds like you feel very sad and disappointed about not going.”
“It’s okay to feel upset. I understand how you feel.”
Commiserate a little but not too much. Move on as fast as possible
“I have a great idea!!”
“Let’s invite (birthday girl) to our house one day after school and we’ll make cupcakes.”
Make a connection with the person she’s missing/wants to be with.
“And, let’s invite J and M and J and C over for our own party! We’ll play games and make sundaes.”
Suggest a suitable alternative.
Final step: swallow your own maternal feelings of sadness, regret, worry, and heartache for your child.
Suck it up.