Monday, September 28, 2009

The Tea Party that Wasn't

I have two sons, who I adore wholeheartedly. They are both good natured and reliable. They do not throw tantrums in the crowded grocery store, they do not hide in racks at the clothing store, they do not scream when they are told "no." When they were babies and toddlers I happily patted myself on the back for a job well done, all while looking scornfully upon the mother whose child was doing all those things my boys were not.

Years later, as my well mannered boys grew, I felt the itch, for just one more, hoping in vain for a daughter to snuggle. Boys are great fun but a daughter would be my companion, someone to understand and be understood. Dressing the boys was always fun, I loved to coordinate their outfits, but to delve in to the realm of tights, hair bows and frill was just too tempting.

Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.

My daughter, my dear sweet cherub faced little girl, came in to this world kicking and screaming and has yet to relent. Within minutes of being born she began nursing, half of an hour on either side, even before I had any milk to offer. She refused to sleep on her back and in exhausted moments of desperation I would set her on a blanket, face near the crack in the cushions of the couch and lay my face next to hers to feel her breath as I took a moment of rest along with her.

As she came out of her newborn stages she slept better but never through the night. She would eat but never on our schedule. She would play but never with her toys, preferring instead to steal whatever seemed to be most interesting to her brothers during the day. She mastered crawling and climbing faster than her brothers ever did but she refused to walk. Her first birthday came and went and still she did not walk and barely talked. Communicating through screams and grunts was most effective for her.

Walking and talking did come, closer to her second birthday, finally.

Be careful what you wish for...

Keeping her secured in the shopping cart, once she could walk, became a battle of not only wills but sheer strength. Despite being buckled in with a strap tightened to the very tightest notch she would contort her body unbelievably until she wriggled free. When I allowed her down she would run out of the aisle and across the store so quickly I often had to abandon my cart, making a mad dash after her, my purse remembered at the last second and flying behind me. If I did not allow her down an immediate trigger was activated and an ear piercing scream to rival a police siren would erupt out of her perfect little pink mouth, earning us nasty glares and even fingers in the ears of those walking past.

I began to question the vanity in my wanting another child, a baby girl to love and cherish. She demanded so much that it felt the boys were second fiddle and receiving less of me each day. My blond haired, blue-eyed angel quickly approached her third birthday, which by all accounts should be considered a miracle given her history.

As the day approached I worried silently to myself, remembering that the boys had not experienced "Terrible Two's" but instead had gone through "Terrible Three's." If her first two years of life had been so daunting how on earth was I going to handle her turning three?

As if in answer to my looming dread, a few weeks before her birthday the clouds parted and gave to me the most pleasant, well behaved young lady this world has ever seen. Knowing that there is a significant difference between boys and girls I wondered if perhaps she had done her "terrible" stint as a two year old but I had missed the signs because it transitioned so seamlessly from her difficult babyhood. Amazed at the difference I assured my girlfriends with difficult toddler daughters that a light was coming at the end of the two-year old tunnel, so to speak.

At home, this mostly well behaved darling is confident and outgoing. She keeps up well with her older brothers and their make believe adventures. She digs in to her dress-up clothes with reckless abandon and enjoys being a Princess and making her brothers in to her Ladies in Waiting. She has attended preschool with much success and fewer tears each day.

A few weeks after the start of preschool a lovely flyer came home, announcing an exciting Princess Tea Party. So sure that she would really enjoy a chance to dress up, a chance to get away from her brothers and be super girly with just me, I reserved our spots and secured a purple princess gown with matching tights and fuzzy purse. I was a bit concerned she would not want to wear the special dress based simply on the fact that I wanted her to, so a week in advance, I made sure to show it to her and each day remind her of the fun we would have.

…what you wish for...

The fun day arrived, happily she put on the poufy splendor and after a picture snapped by Daddy we were off. Snow White greeted us and pinned a sash on my Princess. When asked her name she simply looked at me and said quietly "you tell her." She accepted her tiara with grace and sat in my lap as we listened to a story about a young girl, daydreaming of being a princess. She noticed a fellow Princess in our group was a friend from preschool and she seemed happy to see her.

"We have a fun day planned," Snow White explained to the eager little faces, "we are going to start in this room with dancing so we are prepared for the Ball, we will then make necklaces and have our hair and nails done, followed by a Princess parade and a tea party!" Certainly I was excited and thought my angel was too. When the music began and the instructor lined the girls up I encouraged my timid little royalty to stand next to her school friend for support. Not only did she not stand by her friend, she did not join the line of smiling faces but instead she found the smallest corner in the room and stuffed herself in to it.

Exasperated I decided to take the high road and say nothing at all, I figured soon she would see the fun the girls were having and she would want to join them. After what seemed like forever I felt the stares of the other mothers so I attempted to coax my shy one out of the corner. She refused and to emphasis her point she pulled her tiara over her eyes and hiked her dress up to her waist. So lady like, this one.

Feeling the desperation of her baby years creeping back in to my consciousness I hauled her out of the corner and demanded, quietly in her ear, that she sit with me on the chair if she wasn’t going to participate. Stubbornly she slid off my lap and attempted to squeeze in behind my chair. I was absolutely sure she would have fun if she just gave it a try so I offered to take her to her favorite fast food restaurant for a pink smoothie, knowing that a similar bribe had worked for my friends shy 3 year old at dance class the week before. Nothing I tried would convince her to approach the dance floor and so I threatened to leave, so sure she would not want to miss the fun yet to come.

Mercifully the dancing finally concluded and the young ladies followed Snow White to the next party room. We sat in front of a pile of lovely beads which were captivating to the others and elicited a collective “oh” and “ah” around the table. A quick glimpse of the rest of the room showed stations for nail polishing, up-do’s and wand making. I tried to bring all of this to the attention of my pride and joy but she was so far past caring that it seemed hopeless. I was finally pushed past my boiling point when she refused to even sit in the chair. I took her tiny, perfect little hand and led her out of the room, through the hall way and out the front door.

Just as I pressed the button to unlock the van I heard a little plea, coming from a sad little child next to me, “please we stay?” Shocked, I looked down to confirm this was actually coming from my daughter, the most uncooperative child in the whole tea party.

I explained that we would not be grumpy if we went back in, though the irritated tone in my voice certainly was not doing much to enforce my message. She agreed and so we started back towards the building. As we reached the front door she changed her mind and started back for the car. Stick a fork in me, I am done. No more tea party, no more niceties, no more, no more, no more.

When we arrived home I decided I would take it upon myself to drive home the puppy we were watching for the weekend. The 2 hour drive to my father’s house might be enough time to cool down and reflect on what I had done wrong. I did not say much as I led our daughter in to the house except to let my husband know that I had reached my end and was going to take the dog home, alone.

I was beyond mad as I drove across state, I didn’t even turn on the radio. I sat in complete silence, thinking over the past hour, and even my four legged passenger seemed to know better than to make more than a sigh as we drove.

When I reached my parents house I explained the reason for leaving behind my husband and children. My Dad laughed and my Step Mom reminded me of my youngest Step Sister when she was a child and the difficulty she had with participating and doing things on her own. I remembered it so well after she mentioned it that is surprised me I hadn’t thought of it sooner.

While a teenager, my younger sister, 4 years my junior, would hang out with my friends rather than her own. My friends were always very good about this and never seemed to mind. As a whole my family often wondered how my sister would manage to go off to college and yet she did just that and has been successful in her adult life. I mentioned to my Step Mom that I would not be so frustrated if my dear, sweet daughter would act shy and uncooperative all of the time and not just out in public, with a laugh she corrected me that it would be just as frustrating either way.

As we parted ways my Dad encouraged me to keep trying and eventually she would be comfortable enough to enjoy the events I signed her up for. For now, he reminded me, signing her up seems to be more for my benefit than hers and so I should not be so disappointed when it did not work out as perfectly as I had planned.

As I started my 2 hour drive home I thought over what they had said and decided that it must not be as bad as I was allowing myself to dwell on. I love my sister and would not change her in anyway, even back in the days when she preferred to follow me around rather than be with her own friends. She has grown up in to a wonderful mother, wife and sister. Above all, my sister is an outstanding woman and with time, patience and understanding I am certain my daughter will be too.


  1. I too had high hopes for Emali, I got her to do dance one year but the tears always made me break down into tears & the next year we didn't even make it into the building, last year she took drama and after leaving her there in tears each week (I only took her once and made Alex take her the rest of the time) she did a play and said she enjoyed it ... Read Morebut you could tell she really didn't. I wanted her to be in girl scouts because her friends are and I think she'd have fun but I've learned so I didn't push and instead I'll let her stay in her room and read where she is content. I'd like to tell you it will get easier but she's 8 now and it only seems to be getting worse

  2. Oh Shelby what your dad said is so true!! As mothers of daughters we want so badly for our little girls to like the things we like and we have all these grand ideas of "fun" things and imagining how great things are goin to be and let me tell you the fantasy in your head will NEVER, EVER come true...stop fightin it my dear because it is just not ... Read Moregoin to happen you just have to accept it and know there is no changin it or you and your little princess are ALWAYS goin to be at odds. Take it from me I have a little "princess" of my own and you have heard some of the stories. She is startin to see that her momma is right sometimes but she is still Chelsie so pick your battles wisely because you will win the war.When she has a little princess of her own and you can sit back and enjoy all the bs her little princess will put her through. Maybe not the pep talk you wanted but it's all true and you will survive I promise...Im livin proof =0)