I made my daughter cry on her birthday (the actual birthday date was yesterday). I feel like such a schmuck. She was not out-of-line to be hurt and upset. She could have used her words a little better, which would have curtailed some of the events that hurt her feelings, but some of it was undeniably mea culpa. The twist of the knife is that instead of serving as an advocate for her, I trivialized her feelings, then I started talking to somebody and truthfully kinda forgot about Q for a span of 5-10 minutes. Not a big deal under non-birthday circumstances, one might argue. She spent those 5-10 minutes alone, huddled on the floor of the backseat of our car, sobbing. The car was parked in the parking lot. We were with friends. We had just left a restaurant. Another, much littler girl, had been chasing and pestering Q as they ran around the parked car and wouldn't stop when Q told her to stop, so Q sought refuge inside our parked car. The littler girl kept trying to get into the car to continue the game, but Q had locked the door. I had the remote entry clicky thing and I kept unlocking the door, because I (mistakenly) thought they were both having fun with this. Until, when I opened the door to let the little one "get" Q, Q shouted "STOP, MOM!" at me with utter frustration and anger and pulled the door shut again. The little girl (almost 4) then started mimicking Q, yelling at the top of her lungs into the nearly empty parking lot "Stop Mom!" over and over again, and the other mother and I laughed because it sounded funny to have a little 4-year-old saying that. (Reading this after the fact, I don't understand why we thought that was funny, and why we didn't tell the little girl to stop.) And of course, the more we laughed, the more the 4-year-old said it, with a big ol' grin, looking cute and so pleased with herself. I was totally focused on her. Q? Q who?
Boy I feel so stupid now. Because of course Q heard it as the little girl mocking Q, and maybe she was, and why I was not tuned into that, I don't understand. If anybody present were to have acted as Q's advocate, it should have been me. Instead, I contributed to the actions that hurt her feelings, and then, I walked over to the other person's car and talked to her for those 5-10 minutes, totally not tuned into the fact that Q was still inside the car, alone, ignored, dismissed. I was sharing something personal with the other mom and totally focused on myself. When I walked back over to my car, that's when I saw Q huddled on the floor, and I knew instantly that she was upset and probably crying about something. I still didn't know what or why. I finally cajoled her into opening the door, and she was all hot and sweaty and tearful and her face was red and puffy from crying. It wasn't until we were alone together on the drive home that she fully explained the many things that upset her. Plus she said she'd been waiting to hear me say "Happy Birthday!" like I had when I woke her up that morning, and I never said it again, apparently. Plus she was super-tired, but of course, she didn't want to hear that.
I balance these facts against the just-worked-my-tail-off-to-throw-her-a-party fact. My conclusion is: forget the party next year, especially if it doesn't fall on the date of her birthday. Focus on the day itself. Start preparing her for what birthdays are like as a grown-up: on the actual day, you get maybe a free cupcake and a smile from restaurant staff, at best. I call my newly adopted birthday policy: The Unspoiling of Q. Is such a thing possible?