By: Tanya Ward Goodman
My daughter turned six last week. In keeping with her exacting nature, she had very specific plans for the celebration of this momentous event.
First, there were to be two parties: the “kid” party and the “grown-up” party. The kid party would take place on a weekend. There would be a tent set-up in the back yard, chicken and jam sandwiches would be served. There would be no games, but there would be many prizes. Lemonade would be sipped through colorful straws. There might be a magic show or a rock concert or an aquarium. This birthday would be an animal birthday and a tea party. There would be necklaces and stickers in the shapes of cats. There would be a pony. The party would be girls only.
My daughter was more flexible on some of these requests than on others. For instance, we did have colored straws, but we did not have a pony.
In one area, however, she remained rigid. Aside from her brother (who was family and also might provide the magic show or rock concert) she was adamant that there be no boys.
Only one boy was deeply distressed by this. This boy is my son’s best friend. This boy is the kind of guy who enjoys a tea party. When he joins us for play dates, he is just as happy building Lego battleships with my son as he is moving furniture around in my daughter’s dollhouse.
“It’s not fair,” this boy said. “I’ve known you your whole life.”
“I know, but it’s girls only,” my daughter said.
“But I always come to your birthday,” the boy argued.
This boy made my daughter a video in which he and his brother (wearing matching striped pajamas) sing a birthday song while accompanying themselves on guitars.
“Don’t you want to invite him?” I asked. “He’s a good friend.”
“Mom, it’s my party,” my daughter said.
“But he’s singing to you.”
“It’s my birthday,” she said.
I spent the better part of the week trying to wrangle this boy an invitation to the all girl tea-party. I asked my daughter to recall his sensitivity, his love of tiny, plastic guinea pigs, his exemplary behavior at tea-parties gone by.
“He’s so nice to you,” I said.
“It’s my party,” she said.
In the end, I let it go.
I thought of my own life and of all the sad boys who have passed through it. I thought of the boys who bought me a beer or complimented my smile. I thought of the boys whose only kind gesture was to pick up the check or hold my door. For a long time, I felt like I owed these boys something in return for their kindness, no matter how slight it might be.
I am keeping my fingers crossed that the strength and confidence my daughter has at six will stay with her at sixteen and twenty-six and beyond. I am hoping that one day she’ll kiss someone because she really wants to and not because she feels it’s the polite thing to do.