It started when I asked a favor of her son. (He was so obviously startled to be approached by this strange Mom.) It actually started long before, of course, with a kind child, an invite and a few smiles. But on Thursday, I asked if they could help me replace the C-string on C.S.'s cello that had popped off. (I knew she was a musician and had seen her son replace his before the winter concert.)
We had been to their house before, for a party that had not ended well at all for C.S. (See "Summer Party Meltdown" from my July 2010 blog entry). And so, I would have understood completely if she had been at all reluctant, but thankfully, she's just not that kind of person. She offered to help immediately and we were over at their house after drop off.
While she replaced the string and showed me how to do it should I need to again, our four children played in their living room. They were getting along beautifully. As for me, I admired her cooler than cool retro 50s kitchen cabinetry and the marble topped center island shaped like a grand piano (perfect shape incidentally). They played, we chatted and then knowing another snow day was on the horizon, she suggested they come over for a snow date the next day if school was dismissed.
It snowed and yes, we had our 5th snow day since Christmas. We met at their house at 3 p.m. Even though everything went well the day before, they had been playing Wii — sledding and snow play could present more challenges. So I hovered for a while, just to make certain C.S. seemed OK. By the time they made it out into the snow, he was obviously doing perfectly fine and his sister was there to look after him. He wouldn't need me, he might be able to enjoy some independence. But, also by then, I had been really enjoying my conversation with the other Mom.
And then, this inviting family invited us to dinner. Actually she had mentioned it from the beginning, but for whatever reason, I had just not allowed the invite to sink in — I'm more apt to have an escape plan or defenses to make sure disappointment doesn't sink in. But I had prepared a small meatloaf for C.S. that met his diet restrictions. For dinner, the husbands joined us and we popped the cork on some wine.
The kids ate at the kitchen table and we in the dining room. The food was spectacular. The conversation, even better. They were incredibly kind, intelligent and interesting folks. Before we knew it, it was 11 p.m. And although the children were tired and we'd hit the danger zone for severe crankiness and meltdown, against our better parental judgement and at risk of over-staying our welcome, we were reluctant to leave. We stayed on until midnight even, because there is nothing so completely satisfying than enjoying a dinner party secure in the knowledge that our children are having just as much fun socially.
Ah, the family date. It is a rare and wonderful thing.
Silver Lining: It is hard to know how to recover from the very public meltdown. It is embarrassing for the parents — whether its there or not, you feel judgement descend on you from everywhere. It is hugely difficult for the child — he too feels shame but must face peers who have less tolerance or are not able to filter their judgement. It very likely ensures he does not get invited to more parties, as a matter of fact, C.S. hadn't been invited to another birthday party until one this past Saturday. As I've noted, this is not entirely a bad thing because obviously large kids parties present a few challenges, but other than that, it was nearly impossible for me to see whether an upside in the outcome could even be realized.
Oh and as for yesterday's party. C.S. did O.K. He was noticeably nervous when we arrived. He hid just beside the door afraid to go in. He peered at us with a pleading look, shivering. What more could we do but suggest he come in, which he wouldn't. He finally did and eventually he relaxed and played. Bolstered by our wonderful Friday, I left with fingers crossed. And I can report, well improvements. There were no meltdowns, but he did take off his pants. After that he was embarrassed and called himself stupid and hit himself. My poor C.S.
Ah, but I'm still armed with the success of Friday. The upside may take time, but it is nice to know there are some spectacular people out there. And I'd like to think, we've made some new friends. And you can face the world when you have that sort of kindness and understanding in your corner of it.