“Hey, look! All the children are coming to your birthday party!” I tell my daughter. I am giddy with excitement. The other children like her! They think she’s cool and they’ll be there with her when she turns five years old!
It suddenly occurs to me that my daughter is something I never was: popular.
I was a shy, quiet child, academically brilliant but socially awkward. I could count the children I called my friends on the fingers of one hand. The others only wanted to sit near me because I could help them with their homework.
I wonder how I would behave if I were in my daughter’s shoes. If my mom told me that not a few but ALL of the children were coming to celebrate my birthday with me, I think I would jump all over the place, squeaking with joy. I would definitely look forward to the celebration and the numerous gifts I would undoubtedly get. But above all, I would be happy that not only a few children but all of them would consider me important enough to come to my birthday party.
I would remember this day for many months to come. I would say, “Remember that birthday party when all the children came and it was wonderful?”
I know my daughter is feeling the same way. She can’t wait for the party to start and is counting down the days until she can open her presents and play with her friends. We talked about the guests we have invited, the decorations and the food we will make. Every day, she asks me, “When is my birthday?” Although she already knows the answer, she loves to hear it again and again.
Her joy is palpable and I rejoice with her.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned by parenting her, it’s that she isn’t me. She is her own person. She is so full of life and energy. She’s everywhere. She expresses her wishes and desires in a way that leaves no doubt that when she wants something, she wants it bad.
So when I tell her that all of the invited children are going to come to her party, I expect her to react in the way I would—with glee and squeaks and squeals of joy.
But she just glances up at me and smiles. And then she goes back to her toys. It’s not the reaction I anticipated, but then I realize that it’s because it is absolutely obvious to her that the children will be there. “Of course they will. It’s me,” she seems to be thinking. Her belief in herself is extremely touching. On the other hand, it almost breaks my heart.
Because one day, she will find out that this may not always be so and that will be a very painful lesson for her to learn. But not now. Now is the time to be a child and to expect that she will be loved just because she exists. The hard lessons can wait.