“She’s not invited??”
Kelly shakes her head, and I can almost see her wince.
“And all the other girls can go?” I say, trying not to sound like a whiny teenager.
“I know. It sucks,” Kelly replies.
I laugh it off lightly and say something like that’s life or it happens to all of us, but I can feel my insides start to curdle.
As soon as I get the chance, I tell Stan the bad news: there’s a party and it’s going to be great and all my daughter’s friends are going… but she’s not invited. I’m grateful another mom gave me the heads-up before my daughter comes home with the news. Days before she finds out, I start planning something extra special to make up for her disappointment: a family sleepover.
For the rest of the week the girls excitedly discuss the sleepover, which basically boils down to our family sleeping in our house–the way we’ve done for the past eight years or so– with a few twists. There will be a supper out, a movie with popcorn, and the girls can sleep in the guest bed and stay up talking as late as they want. Originally, I was planning to spend the evening with some other women, but I call to cancel. If this sounds to you like a lame attempt by a desperate mother to fix things, you’re absolutely right.
One of the craziest parts of this little drama is not my daughter’s reaction, but the reminder that I have to grow up all over again. Honestly, wasn’t surviving junior high once, bad enough?
I tend to be overly optimistic about the future, and having children has proved to be no exception. Somehow, in an idealistic corner of my mind, I imagine my girls will breeze through life unscathed. Not only will they be the prettiest, most popular, smartest, most athletic, most musical, kindest, and wisest of all girls everywhere, but everyone will be in unanimous agreement with this. Somehow, I secretly hope they will escape the life the rest of the world gets trapped into. A life including pimples, stringy hair, lost games, bombed performances, crumpled tests, and lonely nights. A life that cultivates empathy.
I know, I know. Empathy is right up there with poetry, as far as evidence for a Master Designer. (Really, what is the evolutionary advantage of feeling deep down in your gut for someone else, especially strangers that don’t carry your genetic material?) But sometimes I feel like empathy is over-rated. It stinkin’ hurts.
I remember my dad’s eyes when I suffered my first heartbreak. He looked so sympathetic I almost forgot my own thwarted romance and started to feel sorry for him instead. It struck me that my story pained him just as much, possibly even more, than it pained me. An unfathomable idea for an 18-year-old daughter; clear as an absent invitation for a 35-year-old mother.
But our week wasn’t just about being left out. Hardly. In fact, it culminated with a birthday of our own…
There’s something about arriving at an empty shack in the woods with an open door and a crackling fire that makes you feel lucky, even if you knew it was going to be there all along.
Have a great week. I hope it doesn’t hurt too much,