Do you hate kids’ birthday parties? The reason I ask is because I know I do. I’m not good with lots of kids running around yelling, spilt drinks, tears, arguments, tantrums, balloons (I really hate balloons), but I wasn’t allowed to have, or go to, birthday parties when I was a kid, so maybe I just need more practice.
My child turns 8 today, and this year she wanted a party. We don’t do a party every year, but when we do I try really hard to make it great. We don’t have a lot of money in our family. We’re happy and never go to bed hungry, but there’s rarely anything left for frivolity, so to make it a great party took a lot of sacrifices and planning.
We moved to Bunbury almost two years ago, to rebuild our shattered selves and our family life after a harrowing three years seeing our older son through leukaemia treatment. We love it here, we really consider ourselves locals, and slowly the pieces of us are gradually moving back into place and healing the scars.
The baby of our family, our little girl, was only 3 when her big brother was diagnosed. She didn’t understand of course, but she was still profoundly damaged emotionally by the trauma that impacted our household. She got physically sick, also requiring a long stay in hospital. She suffered emotionally because Mummy was always at the hospital, and when she was at home she was falling apart. It has taken Herculean strength, persistence and determination for all of us to recover, and for our baby to develop her personality and learn all the social skills that would normally just have come naturally through regular family interaction. We still have a ways to go, the scars will last forever, but we are very proud of ourselves for getting this far, still together, still laughing, still loving.
Yesterday was her birthday party. Everything was ready. Pinata was stuffed full of tooth rotting candy, nut riddled chocolates and cheap but brightly coloured novelties. The games were ready to go and the perfect, ultimate take home party bag had been assembled to give each guest. Unhealthy food was ready to go, artificial food colours, over processed ex food and not a single carrot stick anywhere. Balloons and decorations were hung, house was clean, party clothes on. We were ready, we were excited.
Grandma came down from Perth the day before, her cousins arrived from Mandurah only a few minutes late, and her best friend was the first to arrive with her Mum and Sister who stayed to enjoy the fun. We waited to begin greeting the other guests, children I didn’t know and their parents who were also strangers. We wanted this to be a chance for our girl to bloom a little more, forge some bonds with a larger circle of friends. I wondered how many, if any of the parents would stay or if most would drop and run, either choice was fine.
We invited seven little girls.
NOT ONE SINGLE CHILD FROM MY DAUGHTER’S NEW CLASS CAME.
In fact only two parents had bothered to RSVP, one saying they were coming, one decline. A third parent messaged the morning of the party to say her daughter wasn’t “feeling well”. The only confirmed guest also messaged to let us know that their family had been “struck by gastro”.
Still, I thought, it’s ok surely out of the four other children a couple of them will come, it’s a frigging birthday party, kids love that shit.
NOT ONE SINGLE CHILD CAME.
My beautiful princess didn’t complain, she had a fun party, even if it did look ridiculously over catered and under populated. The kids all got lots of prizes from the pass the parcel, after all I had wrapped enough layers for twelve children, not five.
We’re not the most regular family, hell were probably just downright weird to most people. But we’re people just the same, people with feelings, people with struggles, people with dreams, imperfect and broken just like everyone else. We reached out, we tried to grow and become more than we were yesterday.
I’m usually a very open person, prepared to share you with you my deepest personal feelings, often whether you asked or not. I’m not going to share with you my feelings from yesterday because I don’t want to completely alienate every single reader, but let’s just say my emotions were volatile.
While we are all responsible for our own feelings and hopes and dreams, we do not live in isolation bubbles. When our lives intersect, even briefly our actions can have profound repercussions.
I know our girl was hurt and disappointed, so deeply, because she doesn’t even want to talk about how the children she calls her friends (she’s still learning what that word really means) just didn’t come. Have you ever had a party where no one came? Imagine your child’s fragile, tenuous, sticky taped together world had just been hit repeatedly with a pinata stick, and they bravely tried to pretend it hadn’t, and you might be able to begin to imagine some of the emotions that erupted in me yesterday. Good thing we have laws.
The only parent who had any communication with me, even though ultimately unable to attend, had asked me what our girl wanted for a present. I let her know that she didn’t have a wish list, she doesn’t really want a lot of ‘things’. She just really really really wanted a party with her friends.
If you were one of the parents for whom my daughter’s party was irrelevant, not worth the effort, I hope you feel ashamed of yourself, and I hope you might think on this and not hurt someone else in the future. You won’t be given an opportunity to hurt my daughter again.
If this was just about me, I couldn’t care less. I don’t need friends, I don’t need people, especially not the type of shut down superficial people I observe picking their children up at school. They look at you and barely acknowledge your greeting before turning back to their social clique. But this is my baby, she’s had a rough trot, and she just got slapped down. It makes it really hard to put your hand out again, when it’s been lopped off.
If you read all the way to the end, thank you. If you recognise yourself here…….(you finish that sentence with whatever feels right to you).