Sunday, 3 June 2012

That Kid at the Party

If this feels a bit rant-y, it’s purely unintentional.  Just another random observation in the life of a suburban mama.

We recently went to a toddler’s birthday party.  We had fun.  Our girls had fun. Our hosts were the epitome of gracious, funny, laid back, and patient.  Wow, were they ever patient especially in the presence of "that kid".  

Let's first quickly review who "that kid" could be:
-sulky kid who makes everyone miserable
-boisterous/distruptive school ager who jumps on and off your furniture rampaging through your house
-snobby kid who doesn't want to play or interact with the host's kids
-center of the universe kid who is generally appalled when the host doesn't think so too
-hippie young kid with no sense of rules or boundaries
-needy kid who has to constantly interact with adult host or generally needs to get their own way

The last example was at the party we went to.  And I mean, seriously, had it been me, I would have at minimum rolled my eyes, or pretended not to hear.  Well, let’s be honest, had it been me, I wouldn’t have allowed an eight (ten?) year old neighbour to attend without her parents.  Because as I said, it was a toddler’s birthday party which translates to lots of doting relatives, and friends of the parents and their kids.  None of our host’s kids are the age of the needy kid in question.  Obviously the party's hosts are much, much nicer than me  - and no, I'm not being sarcastic, they really are.  But, I’ll describe the sitch that would have had me white knuckling the chair while tersely smiling and you think about what you would do:

Girl:  Someone stole my shoe can you help me find it?
Host: Wow!  That’s crazy.  It’s gotta be out there honey.  (While feeding birthday girl, making introductions, and assessing the rain versus bouncy castle situation).
Girl:  But I need my shoe.  Someone stole it.  Can you get it? Maybe everyone should come in because it’s raining.  I’ll go get them.
Host:  No, the castle is covered, they’ll be fine. (Still feeding birthday girl, offering drinks to adult guests, and engaging in other conversations).
Girl:  Well can you help me climb back into the castle then?
(Me, silently:  Seriously?!!!?  Seriously?! Where are your parents?!)
Later on:
Girl:  I think the baby is ready for cake.  Can you cut the cake?
Host:  It’s still frozen honey; we need to wait ten minutes.
Girl:  Well, what time is it?  I have to go home at 6:30pm.
Host:  We could try to cut the cake but it probably won’t work.  Why don’t you go play and I’ll call everyone when it’s ready?
Girl:  Awwwwwww.  Pleeeeeaseee?  You should cut the cake now.
(At which point, I interject mentioning how the it will just be frustrating for everyone if we try to cut a frozen solid ice cream cake before it’s ready.  I am totally ignored by girl.  No offense taken as she really wasn’t talking to me. )
Host:  I’m happy to send a piece home for you and your sister if you miss the cake cutting.
Someone else:  Where is your sister?
Girl:  She’s at home with the babysitter.
(Me, silently:  And there you have it!)

When finally cake cutting time arrives, Girl plants herself directly beside the birthday girl and despite repeated very pleasant requests with explanation, continues to interfere with the highly anticipated, photographed, recorded, cupcake smashing and exploration.  I’m willing to bet money there are several photos that are going to have to be cropped to keep this non-relative out of the family pics. 

If that had been me, two things would  have happened.  One, I would have staged an earlier in the day cupcake smashing to capture on film.  And two, I would have physically removed that kid from the general vicinity.  I’d like to think I would have assigned her some knd of responsibility like handing out napkins or something bt I doubt it.  I would have just seen red at someone interfering in my kid’s birthday cake and...oh  wait, had it been me, that kid probably would have been sulking in a corner from my letting her know she was being a pain in the butt from earlier in the evening.  And that folks is why I’m never going to be the favourite mama amongst my girls’ friends.  I’ll be their favourite mama – most of the time – and that’s totally fine with me. 

Ok, but here’s the thing.  How do I keep my girls from becoming THAT girl?  R is super helpful and used to adults treating her as the more responsible kid of the group.  But as most 4-6 year olds (and older?) she becomes fixated on things and pouty when she doesn’t get her way.  Neither of which is tolerated here so hopefully that helps.  Let’s be totally clear.  R is a gracious guest, plays well with others, mostly uses her manners, and cleans up after herself.  I just honestly don’t think the girl at the party had any idea she was being a pain in the butt and that her opinion on when the cake should be cut wasn’t wanted or more accurately, wasn’t needed.  

Ultimately, I just felt badly for her.  The girl has a younger sister, a nice mom whom I've met, dad is around, grandmother who is lovely.  But clearly, she was either feeling needy or used to getting her own way or both; and her time limit was stressing her out. Also, being eight or so, she had no idea her ants and needs were imposing on the host.  But isn't that why your parent should be there?  This wasn't the party of a peer, she was out of place at the party through no fault of her own. And I've seen this happen to R when she was four and more introverted.  We were at a big gathering of families that were all new to her so I stuck close and we kept our attendance short.

Mark and I have been to other parties with lots of kids ranging in age in attendance and there you will find either the sulky teenagers or the dramatic ones who feel like they are your peer and dominate all of the conversations.  I’m talking about the older tween/barely teen contingent.  We’ve also encountered kids in that group who play with our girls and we wish lived closer to babysit, or who smilel politely whenever they look up from the book they are reading or show they are watching not on full blast.  Fingers crossed – my girls end up in the latter groupings.  I’m just wondering if there is any way to ensure that?  Other than of course, to be present at family oriented parties with them and not bring them to the parties of our peers unless they are specifically invited.

Other thoughts or suggestions?  Have you ever encountered "that kid" at one of your own parties?  Which type?  (We've encountered a few!) Whaddya do? 

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