I left a children’s halloween party in tears yesterday.
I’m aware that sounds ridiculous for a forty-two-year old physician and mother to admit. I put this out there as I’m trying to make sense of what was a truly bizarre experience.
We were invited to a kid’s costume party for early Sunday afternoon. When I RSVP’d, I didn’t realize that the party was at the same time as the football game that Hubby was going to be broadcasting. Saturday, I noticed the overlap, but I suspected these folks would have the game on, as the last time I was at a wintertime kids party at the same house, they had basketball on in the den. Also, I knew they were fans of Hubby’s. Still, I figured, if the game’s not on, we’ll survive, and the kids will likely have fun anyways. I didn’t think about it very much.
The day of the party Babyboy refused to go. He’s been decidedly anti-costume, and asked to go to Nana’s instead, to play in the yard. Specifically, to rake leaves. He has a mini-rake and he actually does a fairly good job raking, and then takes great joy in showing everyone the leaves and dead grass he’s deposited in a paper shopping bag. Nana agreed to watch him, and I went with Babygirl to the party.
We were the first people there, and when we pulled up, the little girl at the house jumped up and down, so happy to see us. The whole family was sitting out on the front stoop, and they greeted us warmly.
Babygirl wouldn’t let me put her down and wouldn’t let me put her princess fairy costume on; she only hid her face in my shoulder. I chatted with the mom, “Jane”, for awhile, about common interests, and she tried to engage Babygirl. The dad, “John”, tried as well, inviting Babygirl to say hi to their infant. Still, she clung to me.
The dad mentioned he listened to Hubby on the radio sometimes, and we chatted about that. He said he enjoyed some radio show Hubby had been on, and he asked about the game. We talked about it, and I asked him if they were going to have the game on anywhere during the party. He smiled and said, “Sure! I think that can be arranged. We were only going to have background music on the iPod anyways.”
By this time more people had arrived, and the whole crowd started to move into the house, and from there to the backyard. This mom had done a fantastic job with the decorations, really pulled out the stops. You could see that almost everything was handmade, from the funny giant’s face on the front door to the Halloween garland on the mantle. There was a great big basket of goody bags near the front door, and I could see activities and games set up in the living room. She had even watched a Youtube video and learned how to make balloon animals.
Again trying to engage Babygirl, Jane spent a little extra time with us, telling Babygirl that she was so beautiful, and complementing the costume that was still in my hand. Babygirl smiled a shy smile.
We followed the crowd out to the backyard. It was a sunny but windy day, mildly chilly. There were kids running around, climbing on the swing set, playing in the playhouse. There were streamers and balloons. Babygirl still clung to me, though she peered out at the balloon animals being passed out from a big bag.
Meantime, “John” the husband brought out a small portable radio and set it up on the food table. The iPod had been set to a genre satellite channel, sounded like electronica. He turned the iPod off, and set the radio right onto the game. There was Hubby’s voice!
“Who’s that on the radio?” I asked Babygirl. She was already smiling.
“That’s Daddy!” she exclaimed. She finally let me put her down, and went up to claim her balloon animal.
We stood near the table, chatting with people. Babygirl let me put on her costume, but she wouldn’t stray from me, and then she wanted to be picked up again. She just clung.
Of course people tend to congregate around the food, and likely, around the game, so we just hung around the table for a bit. The radio was low enough, the kids playing loud enough, and the wind high enough, that you couldn’t hear the game at all from even six feet away. You had to be right up in front of the little radio to hear it.
Then, “Jane” came up and flipped off the radio. It was so sudden I gasped.
“What’s wrong, Mommy?” asked Babygirl.
Jane had her back to me, as she fussed with the iPod. She put the electronica station back on.
“They turned off the game, honey… Let me talk to Jane…” I murmured. I thought maybe Jane would have heard this exchange, but she didn’t turn around. I moved closer and spoke to Jane: “Oh, Jane, Sorry, John had put on the game for us…”
Jane turned around, but looked right past us and walked away, brushing up against us as she did.
I was sort of stunned. Did she not hear me? Maybe my voice didn’t carry in this wind, with the kids all running around, and people talking?
Jane had stopped with her back to us to chat with another mom. I made my way over, convinced that she must not have heard me. When a break in the conversation came, I tried again:
“Hey, Jane, we had kind of wanted to listen to the game, so John put it on for us…”
Again, she looked right past me, but this time, as I was talking, she waved her hand in my face, saying, “Yeah, yeah, alright, yeah…” and she again walked away, brushed right past me as I held Babygirl. She stopped at another group of parents, with her back to me and Babygirl.
This time, it would be hard to imagine that she hadn’t heard me. I just stood there, unsure. I actually felt queasy. There was a picnic table nearby. I walked over with Babygirl, and sat down.
My thoughts were: What did I do wrong? How did I offend? Was she angry that the game was on? That seemed really odd, as these folks had had sports on the TV at a prior kid’s party, and the husband had brought up that he was a fan of Hubby’s. He had seemed pretty enthusiastic about putting the game on the radio.
And, it’s not like there was kid’s music playing when we got there, nor was it a carefully selected song list. It was a sort of odd choice of satellite station music.
Then, I wondered if I had misinterpreted. Maybe Jane was so distracted that she really hadn’t heard me or seen us, really?
Regardless, I felt entirely unnerved, and decidedly unwelcome. I leaned down and whispered in Babygirl’s ear, “Hey, do you want to grab your balloon and go back to Nana’s?”
“Yes,” she whispered back.
I picked her up and kissed her and started to make my way to the back door. Jane and John were standing together with a group of parents right in front of it.
I knew it was strange to be leaving not even thirty minutes into a party, and I still wondered if I had misunderstood the whole thing. So, I stopped in front of them and said, “Hey guys, I think we’re going to be leaving now….” and I started to say to John, “It meant alot to us that you put Daddy’s voice on the radio” but Jane drowned me out, again waving her hand in my face, saying, “Yeah, yeah. Thanks for coming, Bye.” She then turned to another parents and started talking to them.
If her behavior and tone hadn’t been clear before, they were now. It was a viciously sarcastic dismissal.
The sounds of the children laughing and playing and the party chitchat and the weird electronic music all blurred together, and I knew that I was about to burst into tears. I didn’t see or hear what John’s reaction was, because I fairly ran to the back door.
The house with all its decorations was empty. I found my diaper bag and we showed ourselves out, walked right past the basket of treats, no goody bag for Babygirl.
Once I was in the car with the doors shut, I felt better. It was quiet, warm, and when I turned on the car, there was daddy’s voice on the radio again.
“It’s Daddy!” said Babygirl.
“Yes, honey, it is,” and I started to cry.
When interactions upset me like that, I try to figure out why. Why is this triggering me?
In this case, Jane’s behavior triggered traumatic memories from school days. The ignoring, then the brush-off, and finally, the derisive send-off, were all too reminiscent of events from almost thirty years ago. Who didn’t suffer from some Mean Girl attack or another in junior high and high school? I could almost hear my own insecure, wavering voice from decades ago, asking, “Why aren’t you guys talking to me?”
The tears and self-pity didn’t last long. I came to my senses, remembering that I’m a forty-two-year old physician and mother. Composure came, and by the time we got to Nana’s house, Babygirl was asleep in the back seat, still hugging her balloon.
Our whole family was gathered in the living room, watching the game as we always do, with the TV on mute and the radio on. Home, sweet home, safe and sound.
I carried Babygirl to the couch and she stayed asleep for two hours.
So, what happened? Looking back at it, I suspect that I wandered unknowingly into a husband/wife battle. I bet “John” had wanted to put the game on, that they argued about it, and she won with the music. So when he put the game on for us, it likely triggered her fury, which she directed at me. That’s my guess, anyways.
Regardless, Babygirl and I were treated poorly, even cruelly. My dilemma now it, what do I do when I see the perpetrator socially? My instinct is to say nothing, and never respond again to any invites.
Any advice welcomed!