Tonight I read a post on The Imperfect Mum's Facebook page site, from a distressed mum who's 9 year old son had a sleepover party planned tonight, but nobody turned up. I know I know - I reacted the same way when I read it. It just completely broke my heart.
Can you imagine the heartache of that poor child AND his parents. So many wonderful people offered her some great advice and a later post from her reported that she had taken her son to a video store and loaded up on games, and they were now enjoying a feast of pizza, popcorn and ice-cream cake. He was now having a great time in spite of this fiasco with his bestest friend of all - his Mum.
As a mum myself, my first instinct would have been to do something completely outrageously fantastic with my son and then make a point of rubbing the little AWOL snots noses in it. But that's the immature and irrational part of my personality kicking in.
She did exactly the right thing by distracting her son and staying calm. She lead by example by remaining positive on the surface. I can't help but think just how important our actions as parents are in this type of situation, as our kids learn from how WE react. Sure the most important thing is to protect your child's self esteem, but then you need to help them rise above it, and look for the life lesson in the experience (however abstract that may be).
I am sure we can all remember a time when we waited around ever so hopefully for someone who never showed up. A time when we were rejected by someone we wanted so badly to be friends with. Or perhaps it was a party that you waited breathlessly for the invite that sadly never came. The reality is it hurts, damn it - it can hurt worse than an ingrown toenail. The point is though - we survived and through the experience most of us learnt empathy for others and took those lessons with us into adulthood.
Fast forward (too many years to admit) and many of us are now parents, and the reality is we sometimes relive those painful snippets from our past, through the lives of our children.
It would be a hard person to say that they weren't concerned if their kids had friends or not. Actually, it would be a bloody cold hearted fiend that doesn't deserve to have children.
I myself have cried when one of my little boys one day said to me, "Mummy today I walked around the playground all by myself at lunchtime because I had no one too play with". I just wanted so much to turn up to school the next day at lunch time to play with him myself. It really took great restraint on my behalf not too.
Instead, I armed him with as much knowledge and strategies I could muster up on how to befriend people. The next day I set him off on his way all the while with a pounding heart and an anxious wait for his return that afternoon. He returned that afternoon with a huge smile and informed me he had had an "awesome day". Phew *high five with the hubby* and we were happy campers.
The fact is he too survived this, and through this experience he learnt how to reach out to new potential friends. More importantly in my opinion, he also developed empathy and now keeps his eyes out for any other lonely wanderers in the playground, and when he spots one, he invites them to join in with his friends and play.
Ahhhhhhh! *shudder* Then there is the dreaded party invitation snub. Man that's a hard one to navigate around. It pains your heart to see the sadness in your baby's face when they find out they have been excluded from the invitation list of a particular party. However as a parent you rationally know that you just can't have every child to a party (Though we have been known to invite the whole class to avoid hurting anyones feelings). When this has happened I have used it as a way of teaching my kids how to be careful of other peoples feelings when they are invited to a party that their friend is not. I know that in 10 years they will not remember that they weren't invited to Billy's 6th Birthday party (Heck they probably wont even remember it by next weekend). But WE remember, and sometimes if i am being totally honest, I think it hurts me more than it hurts them.
These type of (usually completely unintentional) exclusions leave us open to the gnawing parental worries and anxieties that hit us in the middle of the dark night - Does my baby have enough friends?, WHY wasn't he invited to the party? What is wrong with you people? LOL, I told you my immaturity likes to rear its childish head when it comes to my kids. But I don't think I really need to elaborate on these irrational thoughts as I am pretty sure I am not the only mum who has ever lost sleep over this.
Anyway - I didn't actually set out to write about this at all tonight, I had a whole other post planned. But the heartbreaking post from that poor devastated mum, about her little 9 year old who's party was full of no shows, got me thinking and lead me off in an entirely different direction and I just couldn't let it go.