My poor girl has her feelings hurt tonight and I’m aching right along with her.
Tracy, a little girl down the street, on the same circle that we live on, who is in Mrs. Kris’ class with Elizabeth, who came to Elizabeth’s birthday girl-a-thon, who comes over to our house several times a month, is having a birthday party and didn’t invite her. The only reason I haven’t stormed up to her door to talk to her mother is that it’s a tiny party- apparently, she’s only inviting three other girls for some fantabulous activity. But still… One of those chosen few is Emily, Elizabeth’s bestest friend from across the street, and Elizabeth feels doubly hurt.
And it hurts my heart that she doesn’t have the words to know how to deal with it, or to describe to me what she’s feeling, but she knows that’s she hurt. She sat this evening, watching Wizards of Waverly Place, mumbling the dialogue right after the action, with tears seeping out of her eyes- eyes that were fixated on the television and not on her dinner, not on us, not even on the antics of the cats. Every now and then, she would blink and another tear would wend its way down her cheek that was flushed, right along her cheekbones. And because I have the same traitorous cheekbones that flush when I’m about to sob, I just sat with her and rubbed her foot.
It really bothers me how birthday parties are used to define pecking order. There’s nothing like being invited to a small, select event to clearly state “who’s in and who’s out”. I remember when the children were little and they would threaten and be threatened by their friends, “Be nice to me, or I won’t invite you to my birthday party!” It’s a threat that I ignored because I was in charge of invitations. I have always subscribed to the “more the merrier” concept and had enormous birthday parties. We’ve had pool parties, movie parties and 9 girls over to spend the night. I’ve tried to invite anyone and everyone that my child played with. I would never want to make another child feel the way that my daughter feels tonight. And if I hoped that by being so friendly to others that my child would get invited to birthday parties back, well, that’s looking out for my child, too.
I tucked Elizabeth into bed tonight with a kiss and an extra snuggle. I told her “You know, I’m always on your side. I like Emily and all, but I’m on your side.”
“I just want Emily to be my friend, too,” she whispered.
Being a nine-year-old girl is so hard. Friendships morph and the pecking order is nasty and she’s so afraid of losing her friend to a more exciting, “popular” girl. Emily has been moving back recently when Elizabeth goes to hug her; she’s been wanting to talk about boys when Elizabeth wants to play “house”, and she’s been frowning when Elizabeth has one of her little screamy fits at night. She’s been spending less time at our house. She recently told Elizabeth to “stop acting like a baby”. Emily’s growing up, and Elizabeth’s… not. Not yet. Because Elizabeth is half a step behind, she doesn’t know how to navigate this constantly evolving chain of friends. And really- who does? And it only gets worse. I well remember the feeling of being so alone in middle school…
And so I smoothed her hair behind her ear, we rubbed noses in a “cold kiss” and she kissed me on the four corners of my face and I kissed her right back- one kiss in each corner to encircle her in my love. I turned off the light and I backed out, my cheekbones flushing, fighting back the tears, as if by keeping her in my sight, I might keep her protected and safe and happy. Oh, my poor girl…
And I can guarantee you that Tracy will not be invited over here for dinner, much less Elizabeth’s next birthday party. So there!