I didn’t know how to react. I know that some parents do same gender birthday parties though I’ve honestly never understood it UNLESS all your child’s friends happen to be all the same gender. But that was not the case here and Jonah and this girl were in a group that had been friends since birth. They were never not at each other’s parties and most of their childhood memories until that point involved each other. So when this birthday party was being organized and Jonah wasn’t invited, I failed miserably at trying to understand. It was an all girls party because it was a princess theme with a planned visit from Cinderella herself, which if you know Jonah, was and is 100% his jam.
But okay, it’s an all girls party and he’s not a girl. He was also 6 and definitely NOT going to understand. Especially because Brooklyn was invited. Yes that’s right, Brooklyn – 3 years older – was invited but not Jonah.
How? Why? Five years later and I still feel confused by it all.
But one thing I knew was this: Brooklyn was not going.
I couldn’t. I couldn’t take her to a party for Jonah’s friend and not also take Jonah. I did, however, get a gift together because I didn’t want his friend not having something from us because of feelings, if that makes sense.
So the day before the party I delivered it to another friend whose child was going (also older daughter, not same aged son). Not wanting to be cryptic or dishonest, I explained that we were dropping off a gift for this friend’s birthday the next day and Jonah said something about going to it. That’s when I faced the fire:
Me: You weren’t invited
Jonah thought I was kidding
Me: No really, Jonah, you weren’t.
Me: I don’t actually know. But I think it’s because she’s doing a princess theme so it’s an all girls party
Jonah: I like princesses
Me: Yep, I know. I know you would have an amazing time but people are allowed to have the party they want and invite who they want. I know your feelings are hurt and they are allowed to be.
And then I explained that Brooklyn was invited but also that I wasn’t taking her (she understood). We talked and talked and Jonah got angry and just felt some feelings, a whole lotta feelings. You guys, it broke my heart. In fact it still does.
But here was the bigger lesson for Jonah. After talking and crying about it, explaining as best I could without jumping on the *people suck* train haha, we talked about what we were going to do going forward. And it was simple: we were going to love our friends and continue our friendships in the same way because they still mattered to us. And when Jonah exclaimed he was NOT inviting her to his birthday party, I made it clear that was not going to be our solution. We were not retaliating from hurt feelings and that instead, we were going to do exactly what we would have done normally. And the truth is, at that time he couldn’t have imagined a birthday party without her. So we made sure she was top of the invite list.
You guys, I could have kept it quiet and I fully understand that many parents would have taken that approach, but it is not a method I can confidently own. Life is full of challenging situations and although it was difficult to explain and see him so hurt and confused, I also believe strongly in these teaching moments. He had feelings, felt them and learned that it is okay to do so, and then we found ways to move forward being true to ourselves. I don’t know that he remembers this scenario at all but what I do know is that as he’s encountered other similarly difficult situations, he has learned to follow this pattern and really identify with who HE is and wants to be, and makes decisions accordingly. I’d like to think that my commitment to these moments has played at least a small part in that.
Also, in an effort of full disclosure, I did not like any of the photos posted to Facebook afterwards. It really felt like salt in the wound and liking them would not have been genuine.
Hey, mama ain’t perfect.