Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Half-Full or Half-Empty

This year, with the economy being a major issue and people's wallets feeling lighter, I want to teach my son what it means to be conservative with our spending and how it doesn't have to negatively affect our lifestyle. I want him to know that fun can still be had without having to spend money and that we can create memories that will last longer than most of his toys.

My son's birthday falls between Christmas and New Year's which is always a challenging time to schedule a birthday party. This year, my ex-husband decided to plan a party and has put everything together on his own.

If it were up to me, I wouldn't have a birthday party this year. I'd pick some fabulous activity to do with my son - and my parents who are visiting - such as taking him to see the Walking with Dinosaurs experience that I know will keep him glued to the edge of his seat. Sure, we can still do both.

But, in order to get across to my son the impact of the financial stress that everyone is having to deal with - on some level - I was hoping to include on our invitations that no presents are necessary. I think having his friends' presence, instead, would be much more meaningful. After all, I know five months from now my son won't remember which toy he received from whom but he will remember who was there to celebrate his special day.

I expressed all of these ideas to my ex-husband. We typically get along great, sharing in our son's life as much as possible and communicating often so that we're aware of what's going on in school and at each other's homes.

This morning I touched a nerve when I requested that our son invite each of the children from his class. He's been having difficulty getting along with one boy, in particular, and he mentioned that he didn't want to invite him to the party.

Working with families and helping parents and educators deal with children who are going through a challenging period makes me more sensitive to those who have trouble communicating and expressing their emotions. I know that this is the type of child that my son wants to exclude from his party but I would hate to see that happen.

My ex-husband feels otherwise. He thinks it's perfectly acceptable to exclude this boy from the celebration. We argued about it and I tried to explain my position but ended up in tears. I was trying to defend myself while my son's father yelled and belittled me. He claims that I am choosing another child over my own and that if we invite this boy and he ruins our son's party that he will hold me personally accountable and will never forgive me. He even went so far as to say that he hopes our son never puts his trust in me. Ouch.


I hesitated to blog about this, at first, but after venting on Facebook and receiving some positive feedback, I want more. I want to know if perhaps I'm in the wrong here. Perhaps I should exclude this boy and "punish him" (my ex-husband's choice of words) for being a bully.

My argument was that he would be even more of a bully if he were to find out he was the only one not invited to the party when he's already feeling isolated by the children who verbally express their unwillingness to play with him or be his friend.

Let me also say that these kids are 4 and 5 years old. They're just now learning how to communicate, how to work together and how to get along. They're still figuring things out. I want to give this boy the benefit of the doubt. I want to give him another chance to make things right and include him, regardless of his actions and behavior from the past.

I was taught to treat others like we want to be treated, to turn the other cheek and to forgive and forget. I want to pass down these same lessons to my son but suddenly I'm feeling unsure, doubting my decisions and my parenting skills. As someone who works with parents, this is not a good thing to be experiencing.

What is your opinion of this situation? How would you feel if you were a parent of a child excluded from a birthday party? How would you explain to your own child why it's important to love, unconditionally? Is it too late to get the point across to an adult who typically sees the glass as half-empty?

4 comments:

The Exception said...

My daughter is about to turn 9. This year, as in previous years, she will invite all the girls in her class to include the girl she doesn’t like. This is just being nice and respectful to that child as I don’t want her to feel left out. That said, I am not asking her to invite all the girls in the ballet class. Not sure why, but they are just so different and… well, they are not all friends or even communicative with one another. There are just 8 girls in her school class, so that is different. If you leave out one it is difficult for that child not to feel left out.

Anonymous said...

It is not fair to single someone out.
Tell your son you are going to invite the
child and if the boy does anything hurtful
you will talk to the child and his parent.
Sometimes when the kids are in a different
environment and there are other adults around
kids will act very respectful.
Let us know how it goes. Your ex should not take
it so personnally. Your ex may even act more
respectfully in the company of other adults.

shinebrightly said...

This comment may be coming to late for you, but here are my thoughts: I think it's about much more than just being "fair" to the left-out kid. By inviting this child, you're giving your son the opportunity to practice compassion and to give others the chance to rise to higher expectations. This helps HIM grow to be a stronger person. It's all in how you frame it, and judging by what I've read on the rest of your sites and blog, you know exactly how to do that. Stand tall and trust your instincts!

And by the way, your ex's way of handling that situation is a handy reminder of why it's a good thing that he's an ex.

Alexis Ahrens said...

This comment may be coming to late for you, but here are my thoughts: I think it's about much more than just being "fair" to the left-out kid. By inviting this child, you're giving your son the opportunity to practice compassion and to give others the chance to rise to higher expectations. This helps HIM grow to be a stronger person. It's all in how you frame it, and judging by what I've read on the rest of your sites and blog, you know exactly how to do that. Stand tall and trust your instincts!

And by the way, your ex's way of handling that situation is a handy reminder of why it's a good thing that he's an ex.