The rage I felt was instant. My daughter Emily, 7, had just bowled through the front door, full of the happy exhaustion that a little girl should have after her first grown-up sleepover (read: no sleep, tons of sugar).
Dawn, her friend’s mum dropped her off and came in to see me. She was confused. Why were all the other kids piled into her car invited to Amy’s birthday party, and not my kid? Surely, she says, Emily has it wrong and just misplaced the invitation?
But she wasn’t invited. This is the first I’d heard of Amy’s birthday party. Amy, who, as far as I was aware was one of my daughter’s best friends. The same Amy who’d been to every one of my daughter’s birthday parties, as well as many other assorted little gatherings, like trips to the cinema and the bowling alley. She’d invited every other kid in their little gang, except mine.
So I was quietly fuming with Amy’s mum for singling my child out in this way, but also angry with myself for being so angry. “Get over it,” I scolded myself. But then Dawn followed up with a concerned phonecall. The very fact she did made me think maybe I wasn’t so mental after all. And for once, my husband agreed with me – this was rude.
The kids in the car said that Amy’s mum had told her to choose between my daughter and another little girl for the last coveted spot at the party. Who DOES that? I wracked my brain. In ‘these difficult times’, maybe it was a purely economic decision. But these are well earning middle class parents. When they’ve already hired the local hall and the kids’ entertainer, pointedly cutting out one little girl saves the cost of a few sausage rolls and a party bag.
So is my kid ‘that kid’, the annoying, badly behaved one who no other parent wants to deal with? But there’s no way we’d have got several years into schooling without me having an inkling of this. Maybe the girls had simply fallen out or drifted apart. But they’d been running around the playground happily together just a couple of days earlier.
I’ll never know because a huge part of me knows I’m being a bit nuts, so I won’t raise it. And yet, still the indignity gnaws at me.
I’m sure many of you will be reading this and sniggering ‘first world problems’. But it’s not really about the party. What’s hit me is the realization that these sorts of events pick over all my own, nearly 30-year-old schoolyard scabs.
That feeling of walking into the school gates and finding that the girls who were nice to you yesterday have frozen you out today. That horrible silence that descends on a group of giggling, chatting girls when you enter the room. That sinking feeling when you’ve been ridiculed and rejected for wearing the wrong kind of trainers, or having what’s been deemed the day’s ugliest hairstyle/face/body/delete as applicable.
I’d managed to put it all behind me. But this little incident has me wondering if I’m set to live it all again? Only through my child, which will be even more painful.
Thankfully, so far it seems Emily’s made of tougher stuff than me. She reported this snub in the same tone she might use to tell me she’s just popping to the loo. No biggie. And at least I’ll be able to show her that despite my traumatic teenage years, I got through it. I’m (within acceptable parameters of) normal and all that stuff probably helped me grow the thick skin sometimes needed in my chosen career. But right now, it seems any minor cruelty she experiences is destined to make a little bit of me die inside, every time.
The author is a Mamamia reader who has chosen to remain anonymous.
Have your childhood experiences crept up on you again through your kids? How have you reacted?