If a 5-year-old wrote a blog commentary titled “Another Perspective on Birthday Parties,” I imagine it would sound something like this:
“Another year–another friend’s birthday party. I mean, I try to be happy for my buddy. But it’s hard to feel like celebrating with all the reminders that it’s not my birthday…
I’ve been looking forward to wearing the crown and blowing out the candles for sooooo long that it almost feels like a slap in the face to attempt a smile while someone else does those things. And whose idea was it to sing—SING—a song featuring the birthday boy’s name? Do they want to rub it in a little more?
Such cruelty. My mom and dad must not understand how bad this hurts. They say, ‘It’s not your birthday.’ But that’s not my fault! If they understood, they’d stop taking me to other kids’ parties and just let me hide at home until my turn…”
Oh, the someone-feels-left-out predicament.
Of course, common sense would say, “This is a great chance for parents to teach their kids not to focus on themselves.” After all, kids will need to step aside and let others have the spotlight thousands of times in their lives. Common sense would say, “Help them learn how to feel happy for others.”
But you probably agree that common sense fled our culture a long time ago… Now we live in an era where parents buy presents for everybody at the party, specifically so no one feels left out. There are preschools which require kids to invite every member of the class, in the name of being considerate.
And everybody gets a trophy in little league.
Here’s the problem: if we don’t teach our kids to step aside gracefully when it’s time to recognize another person, they have a hard time dealing with the same issue later in life.
Then, we end up with bloggers sharing the “Grown-Up Version” of the Birthday Party scene.
Here’s an example.
-“A few years ago I sat across from a woman who told me she doesn’t go to church on Mother’s Day because it is too hurtful.”
-“It was like salt in mostly-healed wounds to go to church on that day.”
-“Last year a friend from the States happened to visit on Mother’s Day and again the pastor asked all mothers to stand. As a mother, she stood and I whispered to her, ‘I can’t take it, I’m standing.’ She knows I’m not a mother yet [so] she understood my standing / lie.
It’s a strange world when people are taken seriously for saying, in essence, “Calling attention to the accomplishments of others makes me feel bad.”
Anytime somebody self-identifies as “hurt,” it suddenly becomes culturally-acceptable to make the entire situation about them.
But, I feel compelled to draw back the curtain on this thing we’ve come to call “hurt.” It’s really not very different from the hurt experienced by a young person the first time he/she is told to step back while the other kid opens the presents…
Now, before somebody mistakes my meaning here, I do not mean to compare grieving women to children as some type of insult. Actually, I have a great deal of appreciation for kids, and I empathize with them as they tackle the tough lessons in life. It’s not easy growing up, and I say that without the slightest hint of sarcasm.
I feel sorry for the young ones slamming hard into their own sin natures and trying to reconcile what they really, really want with the fact that life often works differently. It’s awful to think no one understands what you’re going through—let alone when you think there’s something mom or dad could do to fix it…and they won’t!
Kids really believe the adults are being unfair because no decent human being would allow somebody to go through such anger/sadness/disappointment…right? Their emotions are very real. In fact, the birthday party scenario is, literally, the hardest thing a preschooler has had to deal with EVER.
I understand that.
But I do not agree with trying to take away all of those “hurtful” situations.
All of us must learn to manage feelings like disappointment and jealousy–and that weird lie that you’re somehow less than others because they’re being honored and everybody is thinking really horrible things about you because you’re still sitting down and the lady next to you is standing.
We must learn to separate lies from truth and healthy emotions from unhealthy ones because the challenges only get bigger as we grow up.
The birthday party prepares the child for elementary school, when she has to clap for her sister who won the local spelling bee. The spelling bee, then, prepares her for highschool, when another girl gets elected class president and prom queen…AND gets accepted to a better college.
Then that experience prepares her for adulthood, when she begs God for a child…unsuccessfully…yet has to sit in church every year while the mothers around her get flowers and cards.
I empathize with people struggling with these realities. It doesn’t seem fair. It’s absolutely not “equal.” But it’s a necessary part of human growth.
Please don’t ask coaches and teachers and pastors to make the spotlight a little bigger, in order to alleviate your jealousy. The terrible experience you call “hurt” is completely understandable…but it’s not acceptable to throw a fit and find a way to put the attention back on yourself.
It’s not your party.
Oh, friends, I’m not saying these things to be cold.
Don’t you see the child who never learns to think of others is more miserable in the long run? We can find ways to make her more comfortable temporarily, by giving her a trophy or letting her stay home during another person’s celebration. But she never learns to see past her own nose. And she never gets to experience the JOY of praising others.
I’m so glad I learned I don’t have to be the person opening presents to have a good time at a party. Life is so much better when it doesn’t have to be about me…so much better than depending on others to treat me with special consideration. I even can enjoy Father’s Day and Veteran’s Day and Secretaries’ Day, and Arbor Day, without feeling “hurt” about the attention I’m missing.
There’s freedom in realizing it’s not my party…but in being okay with that.