THE BIRTHDAY PARTY - THE GREAT EQUALIZER

 

1) It is not death that is the great equalizer as any parent can tell you; it is the birthday party.

2) At age 3 and 4, parents make the arrangements and at age 5; although at this latter age, sometimes the birthday child makes the selection wherein one or two people are omitted. A hurried phone call from the parent of the missed child leads to an invitation apparently 'lost in the mail'. Our two boys at two years apart always were included in neighborhood parties and included everyone at their own. That was not the case for one or two 'outsiders' whom had everyone invited to their parties but were not included a return invitation (except ours). Those parents must have died a slow death as this fact dawned on them. For example, one parent inadvertently drops a comment in the shopping mall that 'I guess we will meet you on Saturday' resulting in a puzzled look from the second parent...too late, they realize their mistake. Life is full of such mistakes on inclusions and exclusions but the early birthday party is a harbinger of things to come. Graduation is another testing time but students are much older and hopefully have developed the necessary social graces to handle the situation3) At age 6, there is the classroom party. As a Supply Teacher, I have seen more than one letter from a School Principal sent home to parents stating the importance of not leaving one or two out of the party list.

4) I was a quiet soul in Grade 1 and never had heard of a class party until a couple of students asked me at different times why I was not there? I was not offended in that I had never heard of the word invitation. I was included in a second class party where I had a whale of a good time. (At this point, I am reminded of Sue Grafton's 'alphabet books' of which I have read all. In 'W' for Witness before her death in December 2017, a variation on that theme is seen with the heroine raised by a maiden aunt. She had punctiliously copied out an article from the Encyclopedia of which she was very proud only to receive it back marked 'F' due to 'plagiarism' a word that she had never heard as she was 'only 9 years old'.)

5) For the 6 year-old, a quick witted parent could cover the absence of a party invitation by saying something like this; Say, if you are available this Saturday, I sure could do with a fishing buddy'. Sometimes the forgotten child may ask 'what's invite?' and then when explained to him, 'well, make them invite me.' By age 7, the damage is done with the child saying nothing or grousing about not wanting to attend 'any dumb old birthday party'. They realize that they are unlovable among some or all of their peers.

6) Valentines Day is also a great classroom equalizer. Gormless me sent valentines to everyone and got my share back but of course not nearly as many as I sent out. Perhaps some others sent valentines to everyone. Maybe I got it wrong. Looking back, if so, I am glad that 'I got it wrong'. I remember, one classmate disparaging another for 'sending valentines to herself'. How dumb, I thought, why would anyone ever send valentines to themselves? My deceased older sister whom taught elementary school for a few years, used to 'stuff' the box making sure that all students received valentines cards.

7) Life is full of inclusions and exclusions and how we react to them is very much a definition of ourselves as human beings. It is just that some individuals never get out of the starting gate in the early years of life. As a solitary type, I did not suffer as I had good family support which is not common for far too many children to which school offers a sense of normalcy in their abnormal lives.

8) While there is much talk about schools and education usually in terms of performance and costs, I prefer to think of such as the following story as my bottom line. A Michigan politician was ranting to other politicians about the 'unnecessary' cost of providing free breakfast to students. A dead silence around the table ensued until one person spoke up pointing out that for many of the students in the program that  was the only hot meal that they ever got each school day. (There is a converse to this story in that the one refugee student in such programs is the only one to have a $10 bill on a school outing where his fare has been covered by the school.)

9) Oh yes, if you are asking, my birthday is on August 24...You weren't?...oh drat....