Traumatized at a Birthday Party

25 Jun

I have many friends with children and I bet no two of us approach child rearing in the exact same way. We have common ground, for sure, but I’ve been able to observe many differences as well. Different doesn’t necessarily mean wrong or bad either; there are many good and proper ways to raise children up to adulthood.

For example, I have friends who used formula to feed their babies and I have friends who breastfed. I strongly believe that the most important element in this situation is getting nutrition into the baby’s belly. The fight of formula vs breast milk is not a reflection upon the quality of your parenting.

A messy house isn’t an indication of bad parenting.

Poor food choices do not indicate bad parenting.

Occasionally losing your cool does not mean you’re a bad parent.

The great thing about having so many friends with kids, is that my own kids have grown up with a huge assortment of little playmates: my kids are friends with the kids of my friends.

When your kid starts school, the exposure to different kinds of households increases exponentially. Suddenly, my son’s exposure to other children isn’t limited to the children of my friends. It’s definitely good to be exposed to other people’s traditions and cultures and family units that deviate from the traditional mom, dad, child triptych.

But sooner or later, your child is going to make friends with a child of whom you don’t approve.


And it’s not that I don’t approve of RJ’s little school friend. He’s happy and moderately healthy. He seems sweet and his brother and parents are very kind and hospitable.

RJ was invited to a birthday party on the weekend and we decided to go. They had been trying to pin us down for a play date since Christmas but it never worked out.

According to the mother of the family, RJ was the only kid her son wanted at his party and I felt a bit guilty and kind of obligated. We went and spent four hours out in the country with a family we’d only ever met once before at the Kindergarten Christmas concert. The kids played, the adults talked, there was some cake, and a couple presents.

As we drove away, RJ, Jason, and I sat silently in the car staring off into space. Well, Jason was looking st the road, but it was a very subdued ride home. We were trying to process what we had just witnessed. A lot of words were flying through my mind but Jason told me not to say anything until the kids were in bed. But I could say one thing, and I said it many times, “I’m in shock.”

While at the party, RJ was definitely excited to play with his school friend and the two older boys but he was also completely overwhelmed with the violent role playing, the gun play, the talk about war and killing, and the sheer level of ear piercing noise and chaos.

We should have left after RJ’s first major meltdown. But he wanted to stay for cake and presents. If it had been my house, I would have had a schedule for the party to follow.

A couple nights of sleep has afforded me some perspective I think. I would never pretend to be a perfect parent. I don’t have all the answers and I often just make things up as I go along. I’m sure, according to other people, I do many things wrong! As I previously stated, there are many ways to raise a child to adulthood. I also try very hard not to judge the choices and actions of other parents

Having said that, I do believe there are a few hard and fast rules when it comes to raising children. I think most people would agree.

For instance:

1. Love your child
2. Protect your child
3. Do your best to provide food and shelter for your child
4. Do not physically or sexually harm your child
5. Understand that your child is a developing human being with a growing personality and a growing understanding about the world we live in

I’m sure there are more. In fact, I know there are more. After this weekend, I can add to the list:

6. Kids need bedtimes. Letting your 5 and 8 year old stay up until 11pm or midnight or 1 or 2am every single night is bad. Missing bedtime is ok sometimes, but kids need sleep and rest to ensure proper brain development.

7. Kids should not be allowed to watch anything they want to on tv. No 8 year old needs to be watching zombie movies at midnight. No five year old needs to be watching movies about killing aliens and demons and nazis.

8. Kids need limitations and boundaries. You can’t be afraid to say no to your kid or stop them from doing things (like shooting pretend guns in a guests face or letting your five year old tell a guest that he’s going to “kill everybody”). Children need to know how and when to stop themselves. Learning limitations is a very important part of growing up.

9. It’s not okay to just sit and watch your child torture another child. RJ was the youngest boy at the party. An older boy made fun of his name until RJ was collapsed into a sobbing mess of hysteria. RJ did everything right: he asked the boy over and over to please use his given name to no avail. The boy wouldn’t listen to me and the mother did nothing. It wasn’t until RJ was inconsolable that the other mother told her son he was being rude. If a 7 year old will harass a tiny 4 year old to the point of hysterics now, what will he do in a few years?

10. A birthday party for a young child needs a schedule. Kids can get wild but when inviting people to your home to celebrate the birth of your child, have a schedule. When the children have devolved into raging beasts, it’s ok to say, it’s time for cake and presents. It’s ok to tell everybody to go home.

Bonus: Do not tell stories involving “drunken Indians” and sexual devience in front of guests and four boys, aged 4 to 8.

This experience was a good lesson for us. Jason and I are often so concerned about being polite; we lost sight of the fact that our child was being traumatized. We can use the events of this weekend to further our ongoing discussions about proper public behavior, bullying children, the dangers of violence, and different kinds of families.

But wow. Just wow.

I’m still kind of shocked by the whole thing. What about you? Is this shocking? Have you ever been to an event or party like this?

Some people say “boys will be boys” but no. Just no. I realize that I am bound by my own working-class “white man” experiences, but in all my years of going to school, babysitting, being babysat, attending parties, and helping out in classroom settings, I’ve never seen anything like it.

11 Responses to “Traumatized at a Birthday Party”

  1. Chrissie June 26, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    A slight spelling issue in my post! It is supposed to say ” there’s not a little girl crying because she is being tormented by ur son ” not ” there’s a little giscripting because….”! Lol!! Sorry!

  2. Chrissie June 26, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    I totally agree with all ur points on raising children and I know I would have been horrified if that had happened to our family. The only thing I would add is that i believe it is ok as a parent to ask/tell another child to stop teasing and tormenting your child, even if his/her parent is there(especially if they aren’t trying to stop their child from being a bully!) . I had an encounter at a park with a little boy and his mother- my (then) 3 yr old and her 3 year old were playing happily ( altho at times the child was a bit pushy, always wanting to be first- my little girl just stopped him and said ” please dont push me- nice people learn to wait their turn!” i was so proud! Lol) running around and going up the stairs and down the slide until they collapsed in the sand and started to build sand castles. The other mother and I were just chatting a few feet away watching them play. Suddenly the little boy started sprinkling sand on my child’s head. She pulled away and asked him to please stop. He stopped sprinkling it on her head and started dropping handfuls on her lap instead! I looked at his mother ( as I heard my daughter say Please don’t do that!!! And she backed a few feet away from him and continued to play) and she is smiling a bit and rolling her eyes as if to say ” huh kids! Aren’t they cute?!” . My final straw came a few seconds later as the little boy starts throwing handfuls of sand at my little girl, getting it in her mouth and hair and just all over her! At that point the other mother had bent down to tie her shoe (ya cuz that’s the perfect time for that!!! Let’s just pretend that ur son isn’t acting like a brat and that there’s not a little giscripting cuz she has been tormented by ur son!). I grabbed my little girl and brushed her off and gave her some water to wash the sand out of her mouth and then i looked at the little boy and said ” that’s enough! I think it’s time you played by urself because if you and ur mom think its funny to make people cry then u had better get used to playing alone!”. I admit that it was not a very noce thing to say, and i do feel a bit bad but i was just so shocked and angry that a parent could just stand there and not say a thing to their child! We are lucky that my little girl didnt get any sand in her eyes! Since then I give the other parent one chance to stop their child from doing things that are hurting or annoying my kids before doing it myself. I am nice about it, I just ask them to stop doing whatever it is they are doing ( ie- pushing, kicking sand, etc) and to try and be as nice to the other kids as they want kids to be to them and move on. But I also do the same to my own children! If they are pushing, not taking turns, being rude, etc, I will correct them. It’s what being a patent is all about. I want my kids to be nice and to have nice friends and playmates and it wouldnt bother me if one of the other parents stopped my child from doing something rude or not nice to one of their kids if I didn’t see it happening. I don’t want them to be rude or yell at my kids of course, just stop the rude or dangerous or aggressive behavior. I think that if we want our kids to play nicely and safely together that it is up to all of the parents to watch and help. Ps- if we finally do get together for our long awaited playdate, I promise that my children will not torment yours and that I will not talk about inappropriate topics! I am now even more nervous for starting school in September because that is one of the big things that I dreaded- making inappropriate friends! Ugh! Thank you for your posts! They always make me think and usually make me smile! Lol.

    • L.W. June 26, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

      Thanks for clarifying your spelling 🙂 Haha, I would’ve figured it out. I hope! Thanks for sharing this story, I feel for you. I’m going to send you a link on facebook to an article that you’ll find very interesting.

  3. SCB June 25, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    My daughter was invited once to a going away party for a classmate of hers. I hadn’t really met the child or her parents prior to their leaving town. They owned a bar so the party was there in the afternoon.
    Okayyyyyyyy, strange but I let it ride. When I pulled up a chair, Uncle said “No worries- go do some shopping or something.”
    I left, not really wanting to but she seemed into her friends at that point anyways, so I did.
    Stopped in less than an hour later (about an hour before the party is over) and the kids are going wild. No order. No one watching or interacting with them.
    My kid wants to go home as soon as she sees me. Get in the car, she tells me that the Party Girl got the boys and girls into the washroom and tried to get them to flash/touch eachother. I almost drove off the road, I was so upset/pissed. Not at my kid for telling me of course. Not even at the Party Girl for trying to initiate something like that (if anything, I felt sorry for her). I was pissed at the parents and uncle for hosting such an inappropriate party (did I mentioned the kids were 6?!), for not having a plan, not monitoring the kids, and so much more.
    Most of all, I was pissed and angry at myself for not listening to my initial instinct, which was “Get out of here”.
    My daughter doesn’t remember any of this but unfortunately, I do.

    • L.W. June 25, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

      There are no words! I would have been furious!

      Thanks for reading! I had a feeling there would be parents with similar stories to share.

    • L.W. June 25, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

      Ps, Your awesome ‘user name’ just hit my radar. I approve!

  4. thunderbayb June 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    Unbelievable that parents would allow such behavior from their children. Also that they themselves would exhibit racist behavior in front of children and complete strangers. I can appreciate you staying and being polite and not saying anything as I am sure I would have done the same thing. It’s a lesson learned and I’m sure if you’re ever in a similar situation you wouldny just tolerate it.

    I would say the positive to this story is that you were there to see everything and know that perhaps that’s not a family you or child should be associated with. Can you imagine if your son was there without you. :-/

    I love your blog and especially loved your wedding story as my daughter recently got engaged so we are in the process of planning her wedding. 🙂

    • L.W. June 25, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by! Glad you enjoyed the wedding story! Good luck with your plans!

      I really like to think that it will never come to this again, I would just get up and leave. There is such a thing as being too polite.

      If my son was there without me…I don’t want to think about it. I’m sure the parents would have looked out for him, but the amount of crying that he did…and he only wanted mom and dad. It would have been messy for everyone involved.


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