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.
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.
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.