Sunday afternoon Jack had accepted a birthday party invitation to a family friend’s party.
Unlike most of the parties he attends at this age, which are flanked with buddies from school, this one was a girls party. At a tumbling gym.
It was also happened to be the same tumbling gym he tried a few classes at and it went terribly wrong. He never liked going and eventually we just pulled him out.
We explained the location to him, the fact that it was a drop off party, and that it was a girl party. He still said he wanted to go. So we accepted.
But the day of the party I could see trouble was already brewing. He mentioned a few times that he didn’t want to go. I explained that if you accept an invitation, even if you don’t feel like doing it, when it finally comes around, you still have to do it. You are nothing if you aren’t good to your word.
So we went, with Ben in tow. I figured I could slip off and do a grocery shop with Ben while Jack tumbled away.
But when we arrived, Jack didn’t want to join in. I coaxed Ben into staying in the hopes it would help Jack get into the party. In hindsight, I’m not sure if this was a good idea.
During the free play Ben wanted to go everywhere but the area sectioned off for him.
When it was time to sit and start a more organized group activity I braced myself. I know from experience that any time you put Ben in a group activity, it ends badly. Already there was a teacher in front of him trying to sit his floppy body on the balance beam where everyone else was sitting nicely. Everyone except Jack, who was sulking in a corner.
After many talks with Ben to get in line with the rest of the kids, I finally pulled him out kicking and screaming. Jack sat sullen in a corner, far from the rest of the party.
I distracted Ben with a small lego table and watched Jack. He never joined in, sat where he was suppose to but when it was his turn, refused to join.
After about an hour, I pulled the kids out of the party early. Every other kid was enjoying themselves. I felt like my two kids were either hogging the instructors by misbehaving or poisoning the atmosphere with their negativity.
I was surprisingly calm in the car on the way home, considering how angry I was at the party. I explained to Jack that going and sulking in a corner was no way to attend a party. That he embarrassed himself and he ruined our friend’s party with his negative attitude.
I didn’t reprimand Ben. I felt I already got my point across when I had to pull him out early and told him then that he could not participate because he could not follow instructions. And I’m not even sure if that is his strong will or part of his sensory disorder.
But Jack really bothered me. Was I raising a spoiled brat? I contemplated how I could fix this in the car and came up with two solutions. Either he was going to do some volunteer work to see just how lucky he was, or he was going to write an apology to his friend. Either way he needed to own up to his actions.
Adam thought the note was more appropriate and a better lesson.
Surprisingly, Jack was keen to do it. I think he wanted a chance to have a voice and explain what was wrong. And it was a lesson for me. That I needed to be a bit more understanding when my kids act funny. Could I have talked Jack into the party by asking more questions and being less authoritative?
Lately I’ve been talking a lot about what I put into my kids body. The fuel that helps them grow. But having them grow is so much more than just watering them and giving them good sunlight.
It’s also what you put in their minds. Being there at those important, difficult moments in life and showing them as gently and kindly as possible the right way. How to be a mensch in every situation.
I hope we did it right this time and if so this lesson sticks, and that Adam and I nudged him a little closer to the right side of adulthood.