being a teacher

Kids These Days…

Tonight is Thea’s birthday party.  She has planned this event for months as only a child can plan.  Decorations, chips, and even a guest roster waits for kids to show up.  She poured over the guest list, wanting to invite just the right amount of girls over for her first ever sleepover party.  I told parents if they didn’t feel comfortable with their daughter sleeping here that they could still come and just be picked up, just in case.  Invitations were sent out three weeks ago.  Thea held her breath, telling me about every single thing they were going to do.  How she couldn’t wait to show off Whiskers, her gerbil.  How she didn’t know how many balloons we needed in case they all wanted their own.

As the day approached, my stomach started to hurt as my email and phone stayed silent.

One girl told us she couldn’t come but would love a sleepover another night.  Yes, please!

Thea told me other girls had said they would be here.  She couldn’t wait.  All day today looking at the time, waiting for 5:30 PM to finally be here.  Running to the door at every small noise.

5:30 PM…

One girl came.

No one else.

And I now sit with the pieces of my daughter who is trying to put on a brave face and yet also tells me that she was hoping for at least one more girl to show up.  That this doesn’t really feel like a birthday party when there is only one guest, but “At least, one kid showed up, Mom…”

And I give her a hug and tell her that I am sure the invitations just got lost or something.  That perhaps we just picked a busy night.  That perhaps they couldn’t find or house or something.

Or something…

Because what do you tell your kid when the world is cruel like that?

What do I tell her when I know that it is not because of her kids didn’t come, but that it just happens?

What do I tell her when this event that she so meticulously planned for so long pans out into nothing?  I know that disappointment is a cruel but necessary partner in life, but dear lord, how much hurt can this child get this year?

And the thing is, we keep talking like this world is falling apart because of what “Kids these days…” do without ever looking at adults these days.

Adults who cannot be bothered to get off their phone to hold a conversation.

Adults who think “You do you” is actually an excuse to do whatever you want because you are just expressing yourself.

Adults who gladly point fingers and then forget to look at themselves.

Adults who tell us that kids these days don’t know how to work hard, how to be polite, how to have respect and then complain about every little thing that didn’t go their way, going out of their way to spew meanness on any social media account they have.

Adults who forget to rsvp to one kid’s birthday party.

And as her parents, all we can do is put on a brave face and tell her not to worry because there is absolutely nothing I can say or do to make this better, except share this story so that perhaps next time my kids come home with their backpacks, I will actually look through it right away.

That next time I think about these kids these days I am reminded of just how much goodness they bring.

That next time someone tells me about kids these days, I raise my voice louder to really speak about the kids I know, my own and those I get to teach.  About how they ask me every day how I am.  About how some even give me hugs, even though they are 7th graders.  About how they work hard, even when they are tired, even when home is rocky, even when what we do is really difficult.

About how kids these days are curious and sceptical, worried about the world we are passing on to them, and also wondering what has gotten into adults these days.

So the least we can do is do better.

The least we can do is remember that we are directly responsible for all of those kids these days.

The least we can do is at least see the part that we play in shaping them into becoming those adults that will one day, if they are lucky, get to talk about kids these days.

38 thoughts on “Kids These Days…”

  1. This makes my heart hurt for your daughter. I know I’m a stranger, but I wish there is something I could do. 😦

  2. I am so sorry this happened. The adults are the problem here. And what are they teaching our children? Hugs to your precious daughter and you.

  3. What is wrong with people? At least RSVP with an excuse about why their daughter can’t come instead of leaving a little girl waiting (hoping) by the door! I don’t have a daughter, but I would gladly drive my son from Buffalo, NY to your daughter’s birthday next year. He would love to come!

  4. We had a graduation party at our home… in ground pool, grass tennis court….tons of wonderful food….. no one attended….I think it greatly affected our Grand-daughter….

  5. So sorry this happened to your daughter. I experienced a similar situation with my son when he was about 8. It broke my heart just like this is breaking your heart now. The only thing that helped a little bit was that we kept him close and we stressed the importance of quality friends over having many friends. Of course, since this is raw, it’s not the time to have this conversation. But at some point it is, I think. And, yes, I always RSVP and make sure my three children (two are grown and living on their own now) accept all of the invitations they get unless, of course, there’s a conflict. It’s just common decency.

  6. Great post. We have to set examples for the kids around us. I want to shake a half dozen people around me sometimes.

  7. Oh, Pernille. Oh, Thea. There are life lessons, and then there’s being kicked in the teeth. I’m so sorry, and as you said, will take this as a reminder to be diligent about how I use my manners and decency so my children can see what is needed.

  8. Gosh, Thea is having a rough year. I do not understand how RSVPs have become a thing of the past. I might have been tempted to call the parents the day before so at least I knew something, but I get that you went with Thea’s party planning. The kids may have genuinely thought they were attending- I am always baffled when the day before a break many students have no idea what they are doing- it seems many families just do not talk. It is so hard to get kids to buy in to what we say is the right thing when so many around them do not model this. Hugs to Thea!

  9. I’m sorry for Thea. Ten years ago we had the same thing with my son’s birthday. It did make me understand that sometimes we are the only examples kids have of adults giving their full attention to the children in front of them, adults that keep their promises, adults that show kids how to show respect to others.

  10. Pernille,
    My hope for Thea is that this “one who showed” will turn out to be one of the best friends she has now and throughout her life. Thanks for sharing this story. Lauren and I are in our first year of “school-aged” kids and can empathize. Best, Joe

  11. Happy Birthday to your daughter! My heart hurts for you both! I am of the belief that parents are responsible for parenting and being a good model socially is part of being a good parent.

  12. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon event. I am so sorry Thea’s heart feels broken right now. I know it’s hard for you, Mama. I am sure the children would have been so excited to come to the party, and I am sorry their parents did not follow through. 😦

  13. Pernille,
    I always read your posts. In fact, I love reading them. This one makes my heart heavy. Thea’s friends would have been there if their parents would have made it a priority! Happy Birthday, Thea!

  14. This is so disrespectful. Parents should have at least called and declined the invitation. Hopefully the undesirable events your daughter is experiencing now will strengthen her and she will become an even stronger young woman.

  15. I felt so sad as I read this. I know my daughter experienced something similar when arranging a party for one of her children, and another friend with an autistic child tells me this is standard. Even worse is when someone says they’ll come, then when they get a ‘better’ invitation they don’t turn up. There’s nothing worse than seeing the innate optimism and hopefulness of a child dashed to pieces. Just heartbreaking.

  16. My heart is broken for your little girl. You are also hurting, of course. My hope is that when she is grown up with a family of her own you both will be able to look back on this night and know that you had each other and you made it through to the other side. Hugs and kisses to both of you.

  17. I so identify with you! My daughter had exactly the same happen to her last year and my son has frequently not had people RSVP. It just seems to rude and heartless. I just make sure that we reply to all invitations and honour them. Also we have planned a birthday treat for my son this year rather than a party as we can’t stand the disappointed look from him.

  18. Pernille,
    I just read your December post about the bullying. I am honestly beyond heartsick for Thea and your family. Tonight’s party is rubbing salt in. I would urge you to find another school for now if you can. Unless the bully situation has improved some. I am guessing she is in 3rd grade which I taught for many years. I have many specific ideas for you., if you are interested. I realized in 3rd compared to 5th which I taught for 24 years, that they did not know how to make friends easily at that age…gr. 3. It is possible the ringleaders made comments to keep others from wanting to attend. Possibly some never brought the invitation home for a variety of reasons (next time mail them ?) Some simply do not like to go to an “unknown” home even for a short party, I was aghast my son would not even get out of the car in gr. 3 at a friend’s house because he had not been in the home before. My son was invited to very few parties in early grades. I did not know if there were very few parties or he had not made “the cut.” Naturally I worried. In the end he made lifelong friends in hs and college. You are doing everything humanly possible to help Thea through this time. I hope she is seeing a counselor so she can hear all the affirming words from someone else. Tonight though and tomorrow make it the best. Then 1 would; try to engage some of the non-attenders to help them become allies. I created a step by step making friends plan. Early on, short time period at a public place. Definite ending time. Second time similar or longer by 15 min. (Think library, YMCA, park etc.) Next an outing to a mall. Again as brief as feasible. Maybe invite other parent to attend;. Or meet there to alleviate any fears. Maybe a movie or spec. event next ie a school play…check nearby towns, those could be useful. The idea is gradual friendship building. Public places to avoid awkwardness (for some) of going to another’s home. Generate shared experiences and increased interactions. Plan first home visit with a clearly defined agenda decided by both kids. Clear ending. Short and sweet means you leave them wanting more. Start with most receptive potential friend and add a couple if time allows. Think back to your own childhood. How was it for you and school friends versus neighborhood. I am in no way excusing any mean or criel children here. But I think divide and conquer is another good strategy especially if she can’t change schools, though I don’t know if that is wise. Years ago in gr. 3 mean girls made clubs and excluded my younger sister. Clubs against her all due to one girl’s clearly immature jealousy. It really killed my mother and was hard on my sister. That’s what got me to be aware of this. I don’t know if this can help. Another thought is to tell your daughter she can have a 1/2 birthday or a make-up birthday. Hold it at a YMCA pool you can rent for an hour or some other cool spot. Invite the whole class boys and girls. Have pizza and cake. Try to get her teacher to attend. Celebrate Thea. Give the others a second chance. Maybe be proactive with the other patents. You need allies. Parents of bystander kids to bullying could be clueless, I mean unaware. Try to turn this around for Thea. No guarantees it will work. Many bullies as you know are really super insecure and miserable. But Thea deserves none of this. Be sure she truly believes this. Be sure she can tell you her absolute truth. I don’t know your community but I hope it is one where people will come together. My heart aches for you. I wish I could help more.

  19. Sent with the greatest of respect, but isn’t it up to the parent of the birthday child to ensure that guests will be there? If there has been no response to the invitation, and if the child’s esteem is hanging in the balance, isn’t it incumbent on the parent to contact the parent of the potential guests and find out if the potential guest is coming or not? I don’t think I would ever leave it totally in the ‘invitees’ court regarding this, especially when the stakes are indeed very high; follow up, and find out who is coming prior to the party. Again, sent with the greatest of respect.

      1. Ah…first year in a new school? That adds another wrinkle to all of this and the situation. I pray it can be addressed in a healthy way for Thea, but also for the small-minded ringleaders who are excluding her. They need help. Again, I hope the new friend and Thea had fun and bonded. Have you read Estes’ The Hundred Dresses? Not sure now’s the time, but maybe it would help.

  20. Yes, people’s choices can have very tough effects on others. Do the parents even stop to wonder how their lack of action affects others? We live in a world that has lost some social graces for sure. For a child in grade three, I’m wondering if I would have phoned the parents after the RSVP date, so that I could plan accordingly. Doing this should NOT be your job; however, if you haven’t heard from people, I would be tempted to phone them. It may just be a reminder for people to be responsible. Some parents are too busy running their children from one activity to the next (over scheduling), while others may be too attached to updating their numerous daily statuses. Sad, but true. Life needs to slow down. I do hope Thea’s day ended with some good memories built with her friend who did come. As teachers, we have the opportunity to help the students feel loved and also remind them of how their actions affect others – positively or negatively. I hope that Thea understands that the people who didn’t come speaks volumes about them, not her. Hard lesson to learn for her and for you.

  21. Edit – The actions of the people who didn’t respond or show up truly reflect who they are, not who Thea is. A difficult lesson for all people to learn. Thea is lucky she has a mother who can show her how loved she is. ❤️

  22. Reading this has broken my heart for you and your daughter. My daughter has only had to deal with the pain of not being invited to others’ parties…this scenario is the flip-side of my fears of not being invited and I’m sure she will experience it in her life. I hope the Universe sent Thea her one special guest because they were meant to have a wonderful time together to plant the seed for a lifelong friendship that will carry her through other tough times.

  23. I could barely stand to read this. It brought up reminders of something similar happening to my granddaughter. Cousins came, and a neighbor brought her three, and a few adult friends of mom’s. None of the others, some of whom at least called to “cancel” at the last moment. This is only one small, but painful thing that scares me about the society and culture we will be leaving our little ones in.

  24. As soon as I began to read and saw Thea’s name I hoped at least a few girls would come and cried when they didn’t. I grew up a lot like Thea and was never really secure with the concept of “friends” and what it meant. Even when I met Carl I kept on waiting for him to leave me when I talked to him about it he couldn’t understand why I felt that way. I, too, would rather talk with my sixth graders and other middle and high schoolers and when I see exclusion or unkindness I say something because I know the parents won’t. Popularity is the ultimate goal and it is so empty.

  25. So sad for Thea and I know how hard this is on you and your husband. My son went through a hard time this fall and I know how heart wrenching it is and how powerless you feel. I so agree that when adults want to complain about kids now days, they really need to look at the example adults now days are setting for these kids they speak of. I, too, try to always counter that talk with positive examples of my kids and my students.

  26. I enjoyed reading this even though my heart hurt for your daughter. Acceptance is always something I worry about with my son. Disappointment is another.
    It is unfortunate that there are some adults who have lost touch with good ol’ manners, being kind and being considerate. Hopefully something will magically click so that things will change for the next generation but I am worried.

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