Birthday parties are fun. However, they are also occasions for what I call ‘friend interviews’. While you guys are playing and generally going insane, I’m observing. I’m watching the kids, sure, but probably even more importantly, I am watching the parents. I’m watching how they handle a tantrum, what they do when their child grabs or hits, and how they handle sharing situations.
At one of Kitten’s birthday parties, one little girl “helped” her open all of her gifts and when she found one she liked, she took it. This is natural, actually, and something that kids have to learn about giving to others. It was her mom’s reaction that raised a red flag. She took the gift from her daughter and when the little girl objected she said over and over again, “Don’t cry sweetie! We’ll get you one too. We’ll get you one exactly like that one.” HUGE red flag. That is not the type of behavior I want my kids picking up. And how would she handle a similar situation if my daughter was at her house for a play date?
On the flip side, at that party was a shy little boy whom Kitten had decided she was going to marry. When he arrived he hid behind his mother. She encouraged him to go and play, but he would not budge. Instead of cajoling or bribing him – which is a temptingly easy solution for a parent on the spot – she picked up his coat and said, “Well, alright. If you don’t want to play I guess we need to go home.” That boy got over his shyness right quick! His mom wasn’t playing around either. She had one of his arms in the jacket already. She knew it would work, but she was willing to see it through if it didn’t. She is my mom hero and my kids can play at her house any day of the week!
As a kid I could have cared less about my friends’ parents. What did it matter? I wasn’t playing with them! As a parent, I know better. The parents of my children’s friends are the proverbial ‘village’ that will help raise my children. That being the case, it is my job as a parent to create a good ‘village’ for my kids, to the best of my ability. And so, we will be seeing more of Kitten’s fiance and probably less of the gift grabber.