Thursday, June 09, 2011

Friends, playmates and other enemies

Joseph is having his first ever birthday party with friends this coming Saturday.  We're having it a month early so that he was able to pass out invitations before school ended.  This is the first year he as really expressed an interest in a friend party.  Like most things with Joseph, once he got interested in the idea he got REALLY interested in.  This party is his current fixation.

We allowed Joseph to invite 13 kids to the party.  So far six have RSVPed with five yeses and one no.  I don't know if people just don't RSVP anymore or if all the other kids are not coming and their parents just aren't going to call.  We've already tried to set the groundwork so that he wouldn't be too sad if most of the kids can't come.  "It's a busy time of year.  There are lots of graduation parties and weddings and family vacations that people have to go to." and "You can have a really great party with six people.  That's a perfect number!"

To myself though I'm pleading with the universe to please let more kids come to this party.  It means so much to Joseph.  He's been working so hard and planning so much.  He wants the people that come to his party to enjoy themselves.  He wants to enjoy himself.  A big part of that will is dependent upon the people he likes being there with him.  He's such a sweet kid.  I just want him to have a fun party and be happy with the outcome.

We're dealing with bigger issues right now too though.  Elle is the youngest kid in our neighborhood and she's been picked as The Kid To Leave Out Of All The Fun.  The main instigator in all of this is the neighborhood brat across the street.  Most of the other kids on their own are decent enough kids but when the brat is around they tend to bend to her will.  Elle asks if she can join in with them when they play and they say no.  She asks if they want to come over and they say no.  If the brat is around that is.  Again, on their own they're nicer.

The brat is mean and manipulative.  She bribes the other kids in the neighborhood into not playing with Elle.  I have heard her offer the kids candy and Popsicles to get them to come to her house and not play with Elle.  The other day Elle was playing with the another little girl across the street and the brat came outside and saw them playing together.  She went inside and had her parents set her sprinkler up in the yard.  Then she came over and invited the other little girl to come over for a "sprinkler party".  Elle eagerly asked if she could come too.  "Please?" she chirped.  "I can go get my swimsuit on now!"

"You're not invited.  It's just a sprinkler party for my friends and we're going to have Popsicles too."

Elle cried and came back home.  The brat's mom stood in her front yard and watched all this and never said a word.  She just turned on the sprinkler and went inside.  Elle and I played a board game but she occasionally cast a wistful glance out the front window when the sounds of screams and laughter drifted across the street.

I've promised Elle that we will have plenty of sprinkler parties of our own and that I will make her the homemade lemonade popsicles that she loves.  And when the brat comes over to ask if she can join in (and she will) I have given Elle permission to say no and to be as rude as she wants about it.  Please don't tell me to be the bigger person here.  My daughter is sweet and tender hearted and it's in her nature to be kind.  She reminds me of myself when I was young.  "What's that? You want to kick me in the teeth?  Ok, but I still want to be your friend ok?"  I want Elle to know she doesn't have to take crap from people and do it with a smile.

Right now I'm on a mission to get a playground set for Elle.  All the families around us have them and all the kids play on each other's playgrounds.  Our yard has a big garden and an apple tree and a dying grape vine.  Wonderful for us but not so great for attracting playmates.  Those playground sets are expensive so I'm trying to find a used one. We have neighbors with a nice one I've offered to buy but they're undecided.  They have no young kids but I think they want to hang on to it just in case their kids have kids soon.  So now I'm scouting craigslist for a playground to help make Elle more popular.

Oy.  This was not a part of parenting that I was prepared for.

 How could anyone say no to these little dolls?

One year ago today my kids cleaned the bathroom.
Three years ago I added a chapter to Joseph's adoption story.


Shannon said...

Two things: 1) I've been there with the mean girl picking on yours. I'm trying to teach my 7 year old that if she's done what she can when the manipulative bitch of a "friend" tells her she's been mean (which I KNOW she would never intentionally do) then she is 100% ok to walk away and find someone else to play with. Teaching nice girls how to stand up to mean girls is SO HARD.

2) People seriously don't seem to rsvp anymore. It is so frustrating. I make a point of phoning everyone who doesn't rsvp and speak to each parent. I make sure to say how crucial it is for me to know how many children are coming to the party in order to be able to get organized or something of that nature. I like to make people feel bad when they show a serious lack of manners. I am a bad person. But they are worse for not rsvp-ing. :)

dancing_lemur said...

It broke my heart to read this post, b/c I was Elle, starting in mid-elementary school, and going through most of middle. And it sucks, and I still vividly remember how it felt to go home every day and cry. Ugh. I hope the brat gets what's coming to her.

If you haven't, you MUST read Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls. It's a few years old now, but I read it and nodded a lot and underlined, and made everyone I know with a daughter read it. Including my mom. Link:

susan said...

I second the "calling the non-rsvped parents" suggestion, and especially the part about pointing out their bad manners for not responding to an invitation. I can't remember how many people I had to track down to get a definite verbal yes/no from about attending our WEDDING, but it was an appallingly large number (by which I mean more than two or three). Come on, people.

(Actually I'm pretty nonconfrontational and would probably be all nice and "no, it's cool, I just really needed to know, thanks so much" about it. Actively trying to make someone feel bad about pretty much anything is not in my nature. Except the mom of that brat across the street from you. I would gladly give her a ration of shit about teaching her daughter that it's okay to be an insufferable bitch and treat people like crap.)

Anonymous said...

Jen, my heart breaks for Elle. Some of my childhood was like that, too. Has Elle made any friends at pre-school that you could invite over for a play day, you know, set up the sprinkler in the yard, maybe some water balloons, something that would make a lot of noise and giggling. I agree with the other the parents who have not responded. Times are hard for everyone these days and maybe they feel that they can't afford a gift for Joseph,and that's why they aren't coming. Never hurts to follow up with a quick call, and I would do it today. Things are tight for me right now, but if you find a play ground set for Elle, I'll chip in a $100 towards the deal. I'll put up a want it ad on our bulletin board, maybe someone here wants to sell one. Wrap your arms around both of those darlings and tell them their Grandma Judy loves them soooooooo much that there aren't any words to describe it. Love to all of you....... MIL

Stimey said...

My heart is kind of breaking for your oh so beautiful daughter. I kind of want to go throw eggs at the brats house. Well, I actually want to be meaner than that, but... The brat is lucky I don't live near you.

I also don't get why people don't RSVP. It's so easy and it makes planning so much less of a nightmare. Do I buy cake for 16 kids or 6? It's a big difference.

I hope that Joseph's party is a roaring success with many attendees and I hope the brat...well, I can't think of anything that doesn't sound terrible to wish on a small child, so I'll just trail off here.

Sascha said...

My son has a summer birthday so last May we had a party for him for his 8th birthday so his classmates could attend. We invited all 21 and when only 4 had responded with just 4 days left until the party I crumbled. My poor husband was heartbroken too. It was like no one wanted to play with our disabled child. Luckily I had a class email list and I kindly, but firmly, let them know that so few people had responded that we were not sure if the party should be rescheduled. Boy that kicked their butts into place. We ended up hearing from everyone and most replied with a yes.

Oh the mean girls. When I was 7 I was the new girl at my school (most had been to pre-school together), and I met a girl that I was instantly drawn to. Turns out she was "that girl". The one that for some reason the mean girls love to hate. They were relentless. I found it hard to stick up for her. She became withdrawn, but our friendship grew.

We are now 39 years old. Still best friends from 3000 miles away. Turns out she got the last laugh. She has two beautiful boys and is married to a Harvard Professor. Oh and is she humble. She never brings up his profession. She let's me do it ;)

Hope you get that cool play structure. I've been asking a neighbor of ours for years, but I guess they have hopes for grand kids.

pamywamy said...

I turned into one of those people who didn't RSVP at the end of the school year...but not on purpose. When I was getting my daughters end of year piles of crap out of her book bag, I found 5 party invitations. 4 which had already happened and 1 that we were still able to make it to. I called for that one.

I hope things get better for Elle. I wonder why that little brat is so jealous of Elle?