It started when my daughter was sharing with me the details of her day at school on the drive home. It was Friday night and the next day, we were hosting an afternoon tea at our home for two of her favorite teachers as a thank you for an awesome year. After weeks of careful planning, days of final preparation, and with the amazing help of another Mother, it was almost time for the big event and the excitement in the air was as thick as the icing on the lemon cupcakes we had just finished baking.
As we drove home, she retold that her classmates were excited about the coming party: what they would wear, what treats we would be eating, rules of “pinkies out” when sipping tea, etc. It sounded like our efforts to make it special were, indeed, paying off. But then the bomb: one child made it clear she would not be coming. Evidently, any event at our home was deemed “too stupid” to waste time on.
With tears in her eyes, my daughter told me how she listened to this no-longer-innocent child prattle on about how she and her mother would never come to anything at our house and that if we were having a party, it would be the last place they would be. How “they didn’t like us” and they wouldn’t come to anything we did. I tried to hide my surprise at the candor of such words from a child.
My shock was replaced by compassion. My daughter, in her ‘wise beyond her years’ innocence, tells me that she “tried to explain that it wasn’t a party for us, but for the teachers and that she should come for them.” Evidently, that didn’t make any impact on their conversation. In wrapping up our discussion, my daughter tells me, “we need to pray for them, Mom. Their hearts have dark spots.”
An event for little girls, all intended to lovingly celebrate friendship, femininity and fantastic role models took a pause for a moment. I cried. Not because someone didn’t want to come to my home, or celebrate these beautiful children and their amazing teachers. I just cried and I honestly didn’t know why.
Planning a tea party was something my daughter and one of her friends talked about early in their school year. They thought it would be fun to get dressed up, invite their classmates, mothers and the teachers to celebrate the end of the school year. I thought it was a great idea and agreed to hold it in our house. It didn’t hurt that I am a hoarder of antique dishes and love to cook; my daughter secretly knew Mommy would handle all of “the details.”
Pulling off such an event with a 10-year-old co-planner was no easy feat! We had many a laugh over what food to serve, what drinks were acceptable and how to set the tables. Chocolate-covered strawberries won out over sugar cookies, the latter declared “too boring”. She removed my flower cut-out PBJ sandwiches at the last minute, citing concerns that “someone might have a peanut allergy” and reinforcing the impact of the modern-day lunchroom to me.
When it was all said and done, we couldn’t have pulled off a more wonderful event. The giggles and laughter of the little girls’ voices rang through the house like a melody. Seeing little ones have ‘a little tea with their sugar’ was by far the highlight! Especially the youngest, who ultimately opted to skip the cup and go straight from sugar bowl to mouth – with sterling sugar tongs – one cube at a time. A ‘Game of Graces’ and an enthralling storyteller recalled some yesteryear fun. I don’t think anyone went through a single moment of PlayStation withdrawal all afternoon!
The conversations with the teachers and other Moms were the relaxed and easy sort that made me wish I had thought to do this at the beginning of the year, rather than at the end. Everyone was simply able to enjoy the moment, without the demands of the day that our rushed schoolyard exchanges bring. Such lovely women – of all ages – to be able to stop and put the world on pause with was just the blessing I needed.
And it wasn’t until late that evening, as I sat pre-treating a mountain of linen napkins – all covered with lipstick, strawberry juice and chocolate stains – that the emotions of the day came flooding back. Working on each napkin, trying to guess who it might have belonged to for the afternoon by the amount of stains and reflecting on the highlights of the day, I found myself in a moment of quiet solitude. Chocolate and strawberry stains from little girls wash away so easily; teaching bitterness and hatred do not.
It saddens me so that there are those in the world who choose not to see beauty and kindness for what they are. Who allow their own issues to poison the innocence of young children and deny them the carefree childhood they deserve to have. My tears were not for the people who may not like me, my child, or chose to be a part of a gathering in my home. No, my tears are for a beautiful little girl who is being shown that a life of mean-spirited and manipulative behavior is acceptable and my heart grieves for the sadness that must fill her tomorrows.
Our little party was a success, but the life lessons it taught will live forever and fill my prayers for many, many nights to come.