Yesterday a seven year old’s birthday party made me cry, and it wasn’t even my seven year old. My daughter Prima tearfully explained to me that every girl in her class, except her, had been invited to the party of a classmate (hereafter referred to as “Birthday Girl”). Apparently, the Birthday Girl had shown Prima the large pile of invitations for all the other little girls, before she handed them out.
I am not a Helicopter Mummy. I don’t hover around my children anxiously trying to protect them from emotional and physical harm. Not me. No, I’m not a Helicopter Mummy. I’m a goddamn Stealth Bomber Mummy meets Special Prosecutor Mummy.
Firstly, I called my mummy friends from Prima’s class to collect evidence. Seven year old girls are unreliable witnesses and whilst their mummies are more credible, the hearsay rule rendered most of their testimony inadmissible.
I needed to know whether or not Prima was the only girl who hadn’t been invited because this would affect my response to her. I knew I had to explain to Prima that she won’t get invited to every party in life but I was hoping that in this instance she was not being deliberately excluded.
So I proceeded with a pre-emptive strike. I called Birthday Girl’s mummy. Yes, I called Birthday Girl’s mummy, and, feigning nonchalance, I told her very politely that I was not calling to ask for an invitation, I was merely inquiring whether Prima was the only girl who was not invited to the party or could it be that the party was smaller and involved only some of the girls?
It was a leading question, I know, but the mother sounded panicky and I hadn’t even morphed into Crazy Mummy yet. Turns out that all the girls in the class had been invited except Prima.
Later, as I kissed the tears from Prima’s eyelashes, I talked her through my Key Messages Matrix for this situation (I draft KMMs for many difficult situations. They’re not necessarily very good, but they help me manage my stress and remember what I wanted to say (I suffer from temporary amnesia under pressure). I would really welcome editorial assistance as I am probably going to need this KMM again).
It went as follows:
1. Prima you are a kind and thoughtful girl. This is part of what makes you special
2. I know you feel hurt and sad right now and that is normal
3. To help yourself feel better, remember that you go to parties and play dates with other girls;
4. Also, remember Point 1
5. And let me take you to Kmart, so you can choose any Littlest Pet Shop toy your broken heart desires.
Today, Birthday Girl’s mother gave Prima an invitation to the party, claiming that Birthday Girl had lost the original one. I didn’t want to accept it because I don’t want to be the mummy who muscles in on parties. I also want Prima to learn to deal with disappointment. But most of all, I really don’t want her to feel so hurt at such a young age. (Or ever).
But we are accepting the invitation because the look on my daughter’s face when she got it was worth more than my principles.
The whole incident reminded me that
1. there have been many parties I was not invited to that I have forgotten. Prima will forget too, at the time it hurt because being invited meant being included and we all want to be included;
2. children can be mean;
3. when mummies talk to me in the playground and ask me for coffee, I am always relieved and happy to be invited (and I am 37 not 7)
4. as Prima’s world expands, there will be more parties that she won’t be invited to, and greater disappointments, so maybe I should work on that Key Messages Matrix, or at the very least, stock up on Littlest Pet Shop toys for both of us.
Do you remember not being included in games or parties as a child? What about as an adult? How do you react when you aren’t included?
Shankari Chandran is a recent returner after ten years in London. Formerly a social justice lawyer, she now uses her skills to keep the peace between her four children, a husband and a sometimes live-in mother-in-law. Shankari chronicles the day-to-day of her family’s return in her blog.