Yuck. Mae told me this evening that she hasn’t been getting invitations to birthday parties, sleepovers, and play dates. She said the girls especially don’t invite her and she feels left out. There is no point in telling her not to worry about it. It’s a big deal and it will continue to be a big deal for her. So, we talked about it for a while before I offered her a possible solution.
I told her that I felt bad that she hadn’t received more invitations and that I hope she will be invited to something soon. I promised her that I’ll do my best to see that she can attend. “About that,” she said. “We haven’t talked about sleepovers in a while. Why did you say only teenagers can have sleepovers?” I said that a whole ago because I really did believe that her age group is too young to spend the night away from home unless it’s with family. I told Mae that I just want her to be safe. She responded, shoulders up, hands out to the side and open to the ceiling, “Adults will be there to watch the kids. You can volunteer to stay too.” She has an answer for everything.
I had my first sleepover — or slumber party, as we said in the olden days — when I was a high school junior or senior. It just wasn’t something we did.
I relented and told Mae that if she gets invited to a sleepover, I won’t say “no” automatically. I’ll give it some thought and see if there is a way to make it work.
Mae said that she wants to go to K’s birthday party next Tuesday, but she wasn’t invited. I reminded her that we leave for Florida on Tuesday morning. Then, Mae said that she saw K’s mom at early care drop-off this morning. “I told her about my issue. I told her that I feel left out. She said that [K]’s going to have a big party soon and I’ll get an invitation to that.” Mae sounded hopeful when she said the last sentence. The good part of this is that I’m reassured once again that this is a girl who is capable of addressing an issue head on. In some ways, I don’t worry about her ability to take care of herself when she goes out into the world later in life. It’s the here and now that I worry about. Was she being mouthy, disrespectful, confrontational? The moment had to be awkward at best for K’s mom.
I told Mae that invitations are nice to get, and sometimes they’ll come and sometimes they won’t. I reminded her that she has gone to a couple of birthday parties this year that were fun. (It turns out that all three were for male classmates, though I didn’t draw attention to that).
I told Mae that the best thing she can do to increase the chances she’ll be invited to an event is to show her friends how nice and polite she can be. I reminded her that she threw a toy at a little girl last week, and I told her that that girl’s mom may never invite her to a party. I hated to go there because I knew it would bring her down, and her face did indeed change. I told her that if another kid did something hurtful to her, I might not want that kid to come to our home. I asked if that made sense and she yes. I also told Mae that her classmates will notice how she treats others even if she is kind to them. They may then go home and tell their parents what they saw, just as she has told me about instances where some of her classmates have made poor choices. It’s a tough lesson, and she’s a tough kid.
I knew this time was coming. Mae’s preK-4 teacher warned me that girls would become less forgiving around 7 or 8 years old and that they would begin to form cliques. Mae has confirmed this several times when she’s told me that the girls in her class won’t play with her, and that there is a clique among them. Mae is a fun-loving, energetic, creative, and smart kid. She loves play, and I think she’s gotten better at it over the past year. Until recently, I tried to keep her out of social situations until she could develop better self-control. Now, it feels too late, as if she’s been branded and there is no going back or getting over the stigma.
When I picked up Jay today, a fellow preschool mom gave me an update on last night’s meeting with the principal and school nurse about children’s sexual awareness. She said that at one point the conversation turned to how the school handles children who have shown a pattern of inappropriate behavior, including a little boy who has become known as a “hitter.” There are two “offending” children in the class right now, neither of whose parents were at the meeting, which meant that those present could speak freely. It’s interesting and scary to hear about the perspectives of parents whose children are on the receiving end of bad behavior. Mae wasn’t the subject of conversation but I kept thinking of her and how others might talk about her. Has anyone asked the principal to consider expelling Mae? What if one day there is a school meeting about something she has said or done? Would I go and listen to defend or explain her? How much is too much to ask of other parents in terms of patience, understanding, tolerance, empathy?
I know. One day at a time. And, everyday look for ways to help her be more successful at every possible thing.