It’s OK: To Bail on the Party

The New Best Friend’s birthday party was off to a great start. Then came Hot Potato Dress-Up.

In this game, the music plays and the children pass a ball. When the music stops, the person holding the ball gets to draw a dress-up item from a giant sack. The game continues until everyone is wearing something goofy.

Sounds great. And it was. Until the child next to He’en drew a plastic alligator head.

The next thing I knew, He’en was literally crawling toward me, wildly sobbing.  I finally ferreted out the words, “I wanted the alligator head!” (Try this with a sob between each syllable and no letters “t,” “r,” or “l,” and you will see why it took so long.)

I sent her back into the ring with gentle words but scant sympathy.

When her turn came, I sighed with relief . . . briefly.  She dove headfirst into the sack like a released gamecock and thumped about in there until the other kids started to shout “Don’t look! You aren’t supposed to LOOK! Come on, pick!”

She stonily ignored their cries and emerged in her own good time with a purple-and-silver Hawaiian lei.  On any other day, this would have delighted her, but not today. She donned it with white-lipped resignation. I saw her twice try to negotiate a trade for the alligator head. But she didn’t come back to my lap, and as Hot Potato Dress-Up mercifully drew to a close, I had hopes for a full recovery.

No such luck.

Freeze Dance: she tried two dance moves, then came back to bury her head in my lap.

Paper Plate Dance: wouldn’t leave my lap. Even though there were prizes.

“I’m just TYE-uhd [tired],” she sobbed.

“Well, you don’t have to play games, that’s fine. But you may not cry and make scenes at somebody else’s party.”

“I want to yie [lie] DOWN,” she pleaded.

“If you’re too tired to sit quietly, you are too tired to be at the party and we will leave.”

“Don’ WAN’ to yeeve [leave].  I want to dance.”

“Great,” I agreed, “go and dance!”

“I want to dance with YOU,” she insisted, lower lip quivering again.

“There are no other mommies on the dance floor. You need to get out there if you want to participate.”


Ah, the sweet sound of an event horizon being crossed.

I ushered her out of the room. She tried to tear away. I caught her in a straitjacket hug.  No amount of self-doubt or Momguilt was going to persuade me to allow Helen back into that room. I found our hostess and made apologies.

Total party time: 20 minutes.

It’s OK: Today’s Takeaways

  • It’s perfectly OK to abandon the party.
  • Or the shopping cart.
  • Or the restaurant.
  • Eating cold spaghetti, with your fingers, in the car,
    (or) Doing without milk for one night.
    (or) Leaving that carton of eggs in the grocery aisle where the toddler threw it,
  • . . . Are all better than losing your marbles.

Plus, you will feel so much better when they’re strapped into the carseat, and you’re standing outside of the car surfing the ‘net on your phone. Because, hey, you’re not about to go back in there, right? Good. So you have plenty of extra time to read this nice blog post all the way to the end.

The end:  where it says, “Hang in there, Mama. We’ve all been there. And you are going to be perfectly okay.”

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