Yes, I am still here. Yes, I am back to work. It is going, okay (but that's the median).
My daughter, nine, is at a birthday party tonight. They are having pancakes and watching High School Musical 2. She was looking forward to it very much.
We went to our local toy store for a gift. Our budget for party gifts is always $15-$20, sharp; kid-wrapped with a homemade card. We usually have no trouble with that budget. But today was different. My girl walked up and down the aisles, forlorn, picking out $50 presents for her friend time and time again.
I was no-ing, and suggesting all manner of things when I noticed she was going to tantrum, and burst into tears. She kept saying, "She won't really like that. That's not really her style. I am not really sure that that's her thing."
SOOOOOO complicated, it seemed.
I finally put the whole thing on pause and we left the store. I held onto her little hand gently and blurted, "You are a very good friend. You are thoughtful, you are happy for her birthday. (Long silence, quiet tears followed.) What is troubling you? Are you worried that your friend won't like you if you do not give her a very big, special present?"
She was silent. I added, "I don't think Z gave you a present last year at your party. And, come to think of it, I don't think that Z ever thanked you for that monogrammed headband you carefully picked out for her birthday last year." (All true, I might add).
"I know," she said. "She never said that she liked it either."
I started to get it. "So, why are you concerned about the gift you give your friend today?"
She could not answer.
"Let's keep it simple and fun. Can you let mommy take care of it for you?"
Several hours later, she decided it was time to dress for the party. She came down in a wild, mismatched outfit. The outfit felt confused and it was then an idea sprang out for me.
My daughter was working overtime to impress a friend she really wasn't sure she even liked . . .
When I told her the outfit was a little out of sorts for the occasion (not exactly like that) she burst into tears about the fact that she only has "high heels" (a.k.a., Mary Janes) for winter and since it was nearly 100 degrees outside, and I would not let her wear them, the whole outfit was ruined!
She cried for one half an hour.
She isn't deprived, but she felt a deficit . . . Z is a girl she likes a lot but who doesn't really pay much attention to her.
I figured it needed to run its course and she'd come out of it just fine. I was right.
Thirty minutes later when I went upstairs to see how she was doing, she had on the most natural, pretty party outfit ever: a soft three-tiered peasant skirt in chocolate brown, a gently faded pink tank top, and lovely, simple pink-sequined flip-flops. Her face was washed, her hair in a ponytail. She was plenty: Herself through and through.
We took a hard cover book from her shelf, wrapped it up and got her to the party on time.