She'll Cry If She Wants To
We celebrated my daughter's 8th birthday today with a simple, backyard party at my parents' house. What should have been an uncomplicated event - would have been an uncomplicated event if it was someone else's party - was two hours of aimless activity intermingled with tantrums. Hers. Mine. Other kids.
Last night, she asked to sleep in my bed, so that we could wake up together on her birthday morning.
Tonight, she went to bed with tears still wet on her face, torn between her own indignation and her realization that her behavior affects others. Like me. Like the mother who is sitting here fighting back tears of her own.
Let's be frank - I'm dismal at parties. I used to be a good party person, but I've lost the ability to wrangle buttercream icing and crepe paper streamers. I found myself staring at a scattering group of second graders, unable to summon the authority to will them into playing the games I had planned. I couldn't cut the cake right, either.
But I tried. I really did try. The party was not the best ever, but we covered the basics. Throughout, I saw my daughter through different eyes, and she was frustrated. She wanted to be the boss of everything. She needed to have control, and when I stepped in and tried to regain some semblance of my hostess duties, she stormed off to sob in the bathroom. I stood on the concrete patio, opening and closing my mouth like a carp.
She saw me through different eyes today, too. She saw the lopsided cake (that she didn't get to help decorate, losing me more points) and the simplistic decor and was disappointed. Maybe disappointed is too strong. She was...unimpressed. She wanted bells and whistles and non-stop excitement. Instead, she got a flustered mother for a party planner. She saw that I couldn't quite get the party going in the right direction. She saw me stumble and stagger - and she judged me harshly.
I want her to be grateful that she had a party. I want her to thank her guests and admire her presents and appreciate the effort without having to be prompted thirty times. I want her to understand what went into it, without having to put on my martyr-pants. I want her to realize that she doesn't have to be the boss all the time - that she might actually have fun if she allows someone else to lead the action. I don't want her to roll her eyes at me ever again ohmyGOD.
Most of all, I want to rewind this day to the part where she wanted to sleep by my side and wake up next to me on her birthday.