The Birthday Party: Wise Beyond Her Years
Each of us experienced rejection from peers at some point growing up and we now watch as our own children experience it as well. It is painful to see our children get hurt. However, for non-typical children, the rejection happens much more frequently and is often so much crueler than we could have imagined. Society in general is not so welcoming of those who don’t quite fit its definition of “norm.”
How excited the mother was when she learned her daughter was to be invited to a birthday party! A girl the daughter knew from an art class she was attending, named Ruth, invited her! Although about the same age, the daughter was not yet as emotionally mature as the other girls but she has the most tender of hearts…and she could barely wait to go to that party! She shopped to find the perfect gift for her friend, Ruth! And when the mom called to accept the invitation, Ruth’s father asked if they could bring a tray of the vegetable lasagna to the party just like the daughter had shared with her art class weeks before…. he said Ruth couldn’t stop talking about it!
When the mother and daughter arrived at the party house with the gift and lasagna in tow, there were about 20 kids there—boys and girls mostly in the 13-to14 year-old age range. The party was set up with food and a big screen in one room for the kids to enjoy…it was set up like a mini-movie theatre and it was awesome. There was a room across the hall where the parents could mingle and socialize as well. The mother thought to herself, “This is going to be great!”
The mom watched as her daughter greeted the adults and then made her way to the teen movie room. She found a vacant seat right in the midst of a group of the girls and, with a huge smile on her face and with an abundance of unabashed joy, she said, “Hi. I’m so excited to be here!” The kids, including the birthday girl, Ruth, who had invited her, promptly got up and moved and left the girl sitting alone. The mom felt a knot in her throat and a burning pain in her heart…. but she waited to see if she could have been mistaken…. even at that age girls couldn’t possibly be so cruel. She prayed silently, “Please, please let this be a good event and not a heartbreaking one for my precious daughter.” She watched further as the kids got up to grab snacks and to socialize and, again, it was obvious they were intentionally not including her daughter whatsoever. Her daughter tried to talk to a few of the kids but they wanted no part of it. She caught her daughter’s attention and said, “We can leave if you want.” The daughter replied, with the sweetest voice imaginable, “No, mama, I want to stay in the party room with my friends. You go visit with the adults.” The mom gave her a loving wink as her daughter sat back down in her chair to watch the movie…still alone and ignored by the other kids there. As a mom, she was crushed for her daughter. And even though she felt like grabbing the other kids and asking why they were shunning this sweet, loving, warm, unique and beautiful child, she somehow refrained because she did not want to embarrass her daughter.
The mom went to the room where the parents were socializing, and since she didn’t care in the least what other parents say or think about her, she looked for the host, Ruth’s dad. She really felt like slapping him (she was thinking the Moonstruck slap—remember that?) for allowing his child’s cruelness. But before she could find him, her thoughts were interrupted as she listened to the other parents talking lovingly about their own kids at the party. They talked about the high test scores they made, how advanced they were, about the AP programs they were going to get into, the colleges they would attend and how their kids were going to be so successful. She smiled and thought how all of those things are so admirable and how she loves it every time she hears parents so involved in the lives of their children, but at that moment, she was a mom on a mission…she had to defend her daughter and tell Ruth’s dad just what she thought of Ruth’s hurtful behavior toward her child. She was suddenly jerked back to reality as she heard Ruth’s father announce the movie was over and he asked all parents to head over to the party room for cake. Something told the mom it wouldn’t be quite that simple.
The adults walked into the party room; the mom’s daughter was still seated alone. Before the mom could get Ruth’s father’s attention, Ruth took to the floor and since it was her birthday, she thought it would be fun for each kid to stand and say what they wanted to do be when they grow up. Ruth called out each child by name and one by one, they stood to say their name, where they wanted to go to college, and what they wanted to be in their professional life—a lawyer, a surgeon, a pathologist, a nuclear engineer, president, etc. All the kids applauded for one another and each career choice out did the one prior. Ruthie was about to sit down—she had intentionally not called the daughter’s name—and just as the mom was about to show this group of kids and parents what a tiger mom protecting her cub looks like, Ruth’s father stepped up and said, “What’s that saying…we’ve saved the best for last? What do you want to do when you grow up?” The daughter stood up, with a beautiful smile on her precious face, and she said, “I want to be a…. a chef like Chef Miles, he’sawesome!” No kids applauded for her or for her future career choice, but the mom glowed with pride! She thought toherself….“A chef! That’s perfect! That’s great, my girl!” Ruth’s father said, “And a fantastic chef you’ll be…this vegetable lasagna is the best I’ve ever had.” (The mom was glad that she hadn’t followed through on her desire earlier to give Ruth’s dad theMoonstruck slap). Ruthie’s dad did okay after all!
As Ruthie finished opening her gifts, the daughter and her mom said their goodbyes. As they got into the car the mom asked her daughter if she had an okay time. She enthusiastically said, “Yes, mama. Those kids didn’t talk to me but they lost out. I had a cool story I was going to tell them.” It was in that moment that the mom realized something very powerful within her daughter. Her girl didn’t view herself as a victim of rejection and she wasn’t feeling sorry for herself because she was treated so differently from the rest. She loves just for the sake of loving…. not expecting anything in return. She gives because she truly gets pleasure from giving…again, not expecting anything to ever be reciprocated. She is thoughtful and generous because that is just the way she is…. not because she needs anyone to like her. She embraces her abundance of enthusiasm and excitement. The mom leaned over and she gave her daughter a long, tight hug.
That night, as the mom kissed her daughter’s cheek and told her that she loved her and wished her cool dreams as she does every night, she also told her how very proud she was of her, so proud of the person she is. And the daughter said, “Thank you mama and I love you, too, mama.” The mom felt her daughter’s genuine sweetness and pureness of heart.
As she made her way to her own bedroom, the mom realized she was crying—because she was so thankful, so grateful, so blessed to be this child’s mom. Her daughter may not yet be as advanced or as mature or as skilled in some ways as others her age, but she already is gifted in ways most will never experience. She’s a wise soul, a kind, and a warm and a loving soul who is unique, and fun, and who has that extra abundance of love in her heart. Her tenderness and caring nature will probably bring her more hurt than the average person will experience in life, but it will also bring her the ability to experience a deeper love of herself and of others than most will ever know.
Regardless of how we try to convince ourselves otherwise, every single one of us desires to give and to receive unconditional love. We may hide behind excessive work schedules or behind self-conceived obligations. We may even push away those who actually do/did love us unconditionally. But we can learn from this child right now not to be a victim of our fear of being hurt or ridiculed or rejected.
Oh, and as far as a profession goes, there’s nothing cooler than a chef!
Kelly Jackson is a single mom who lives in Tampa, Florida, with her daughter, Holly. They enjoy writing, cooking, and going on adventures and journeys! And they do make delicious vegetable lasagna!