Why You Should Say Yes To That Birthday Party Invitation

birthday-party

Dear Fellow Parent,

I read the words you wrote about an invitation your kindergartener received and the best way to describe what I felt was heartache, especially as I read the comments applauding your decision.

We declined the invitation to the birthday party, because my child says they’re not even friends.

I did understand where you were coming from. I know birthday parties can feel like a nuisance and a bother. I’ve been receiving and sending invitations for over a decade now.

But let’s pretend for a moment that the parents who sent that invitation did so with the best of intentions. Let’s assume they weren’t trying to get more gifts for their kid or make things more complicated or busy for your family.

Maybe they sent that invitation to your child, because they were thinking of their own.

For some kids, managing school and friends—and all the nuances and challenges that along with that world—is easy. Maybe you have a child that’s extroverted. Maybe you have a child with a lot of self-confidence. Maybe you have a child that’s resilient. Maybe you have a child without special needs or other exceptionalities. 

For some kids, school and friends can feel like an impossible obstacle course. So challenging and confusing they’d rather stand on the sidelines and watch, even though they understand it doesn’t feel as good as playing the game.

Then along comes a birthday party: a dazzling, fun, exciting, level-the-playing-field opportunity. A chance for that kid on the sidelines to be enticing enough for the other kids who don’t play with him at school, who don’t call him friend, to want to spend a couple of hours in his company.

Sometimes even when the birthday venue and theme has been decided on, and the painstaking decision-making about who to invite has been made, there can still be doubt. Those sparkling invitations can stay untouched in the bottom of your child’s backpack for days, because she is too scared to hand them out. Because she is too afraid to watch the faces of the kids as they receive them.

I don’t know your child, and I don’t know you. But I do know there are parents who find this hard. I do know there are parents who lie awake at night wondering if their child will have the courage to hand out the invitations in the morning. I do know there are parents who hope there are other parents teaching their children to have the compassion it takes to show up.

Maybe you’ll never have to be one of the parents who find it hard. I know what that’s like, because I have children who find it easy. But I also have a child who doesn’t. And because of that, we’ve become a family that shows up and says yes to every invitation we can.

When our kids hold out an invitation, sometimes it's a name we don't recognize. We remind them that some invitations come with little thought, while others come with a lot of heart and sometimes it’s hard to tell.

We ask them to assume it was heart. And we have never regretted how much we've learned from those experiences.

And so I’m asking you to stop and think the next time your child holds out an invitation from someone who isn't their friend.

Your kindergartener is only at the beginning of a lifetime of friendships. Birthday party invitations can be a wonderful opportunity to teach your child empathy, acceptance, and kindness. All of those traits will serve her far beyond the hours she spends running around an indoor playground.

Sometimes a birthday party invitation is just a birthday party invitation.

But sometimes, it’s also an invitation to be a friend.

From Your Fellow Parent (and Friend)

 

 

Repeater: Bird Of Sorrow

glen-hansard

Grief came first like an earthquake. Shaking and tossing everything we knew and leaving us shattered. But we did the work you are supposed to when things are broken. We picked up the debris and did our best to put everything back in place

But grief hides and waits. And it came back. First with aftershocks that we walked over and around until the tsunami swept over us and left devastation, despair and a landscape that was unrecognizable. 

We stood in the place we once held sacred and strained our eyes trying to find familiarity. We watched helplessly as bold and dark brushstrokes crisscrossed the painting we wanted to fill with light. But we keep painting anyway, each of us taking turns at the easel. Until finally, finally we stood back and saw the final masterpiece was no less beautiful. 

+ + + + + +

This song helped me. 

It played on repeat while I stood in place.

It played on repeat while I kept painting the landscape of our life together. 

It played on repeat while I loved and loved even when I was scared. 

It plays now and reminds me of sorrow.

It plays now and reminds me of vulnerability.

It plays now and reminds me of us. 

+ + + + + + 

Even if a day feels too long
You feel like you can't wait another one
You're slowly giving up on everything
Love is gonna find you again

Love is gonna find you, you better be ready then

You've been kneeling in the dark for far too long
You've been waiting for that spark, but it hasn't come
Well I'm calling to you, please, get off the floor
A good heart will find you again

A good heart will find you, just be ready then

Tethered to a bird of sorrow
A voice that's buried in the hollow
You've given over to self-deceiving
You're prostrate, bowed, but not believing.
You've squandered more than you could borrow
You've bet your joys on all tomorrows
For the hope of some returning
While everything around you is burning

Come on, we gotta get out, get out of this mess we made
And still for all our talk, we're both so afraid
Will we leave this up to chance, like we do everything?
Love is gonna find us again

Love is gonna find us, we gotta be ready then

Tethered to a bird of sorrow
A voice that's buried in the hollow
You've given over to self-deceiving
Your prostrate bowed would not be leaving
You've squandered more than you could borrow
You've bet your joys on all tomorrows
For the hope of some returning
While everything around you's burning

But I'm not leaving you
I'm not leaving you
I'm not leaving
I'm not leaving, yeah, yeah
I'm not leaving
I'm not leaving, yeah, yeah
I'm hanging on
Hanging on
What's gonna come?
I'm hanging on now
Hanging on, hanging on, hanging on
Hanging on, hanging on, hanging on

With the faithful
With the faithful
I'm hanging on
What's gonna come?
What's gonna come?
Hanging on
Hanging on

~Glen Hansard "Bird of Sorrow"

How To Find Books Your Kids Will Read

Lined up at midnight for the Harry Potter release. He finished it the next day.

Lined up at midnight for the Harry Potter release. He finished it the next day.

There is nothing that gets me into my minivan and pulling out of the driveway faster than a refrigerator without eggs or a kid who has "nothing to read".

All four of my kids are readers, but my twelve-year-old son is an avid reader. He's exactly like me and one of his uncles at the same age: buried inside a book whenever possible. When he gets desperate (after he's already re-read his own collection for the billionth time and can't take it anymore) he'll wander into his sisters' rooms in search of anything that has a cover and some words.

He reads the newspaper on the weekends and the back of cereal boxes and yogurt containers in the morning. And as much as I'd like to keep adding to his humongous collection, I haven't been able to find a money or book tree anywhere (we do buy series that all the kids will read and everyone in the family gets books for birthdays and Christmas). So whenever there's a plea for more books, I go from library to library hoping they've ordered new ones.

Today, I stopped in on my lunch hour and it was quiet. There's a humour series a friend of mine had mentioned, and I asked the librarian at the information desk if it was available. I do my best to stay current about what kids are reading, and I also rely on word-of-mouth from other parents. But there is so much out there, and I often wonder if I'm missing out on books that would really appeal to their individual interests. Of course, each of the kids has a preference for book style and it's hard to keep tabs on all those genres.

The librarian looked at me, took in the fact I was there on my own and then asked if I had a few moments to spare. She proceeded to teach me the best way to find books my kids would read. My tried-and-true method has always been to set the kids loose with a basket, so they can choose their own books.

This time, I sat down at the computer with a very skilled librarian and learned about databases and Read Alike lists. GAME CHANGER. See also: RABBIT HOLE.

I'm always skimming articles about best book series and I read the book review section of the weekend paper looking for suggestions, but it all ends up cluttered in my to-do list. Read alike lists are so easy to use and something the kids can do themselves.

I also learned about the hidden resources on our library's web page. Did you know many communities purchase access to specialized databases?

Go over to your library's homepage and look for digital resources. And then look for databases and/or research. Scroll through and look for links related to kids. For example, our library has provided the community with access to the Novelist K8 database, which can be searched by age group, genres, sub-types and (this is the best) categories like "funny & gross". To access the database, you do need to enter through a library or school.

Before I left the library yesterday, I was handed a pile of new books to bring home (already knowing they would appeal to the kind of humour he appreciates) and some lists of other books to explore when he's ready. The librarian also put a hold on the humour series I had originally come in to find, and I'll be receiving a call when they're ready to be picked up.

If you have a reader in your home (or if you are looking for books for yourself), go introduce yourself to a librarian.

Seriously, they are wizards in disguise.