Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What Do I Do Now?

I have a parenting dilemma.

I am starting to plan Volcano and Monkey's joint birthday party. They share a birthday party because their birthdays are a week apart from each other. Plus, Volcano and Monkey like each other's friends, it cuts the costs down, and it's usually a lot more fun and less stressful than trying to do them separately.

One evening, Volcano asked me, "So, at our birthday party, are you going to have your friends there, too?"

I shrugged. "Well, my friends are mostly the mommies of your friends, so... yeah -- I'll have my friends there."

"So you're going to invite Jenna, then, right?" Volcano asked.

I almost automatically said yes, when I began to think carefully about his question. Jenna is one of my closest friends, and we often get the kids together to play. She only has one daughter, Sarah, who is Volcano's age, but I always bring Monkey along to play too. Sarah usually avoids playing with Monkey, who is almost 3 years younger, and she delibrately leaves her out of their play activities. Admittedly, Sarah almost always ends up picking on Monkey, and has hit her, pushed her, and kicked her every time we've gotten them together. Because of this, I have eliminated the play dates, and it has recently just been Jenna and I getting together for dinner and drinks in the evenings without the kids.

But the birthday party is at a public place, not our home. I reserved a party room at an indoor playplace in our neighborhood, so the kids can play freely and then join us for cake towards the end. I was actually planning on inviting Sarah because I figured the kids could play wherever they liked, and I could watch Monkey and make sure she stayed away from her.

But now that Volcano is asking me this, I reconsider. "Why do you ask?"

"It's just that..." he shuffles his feet. "I know that Jenna is your friend. And Sarah is my friend..." He looks up at me and whispers. "But she can be really mean. Especially to the Monkey. I don't think Sarah should come to my party."

I swallow, hard. He's right. What am I doing? Putting my comfort before the safety and well-being of Monkey? Here is my son, not yet 5 years old, and he's thinking of sacrificing one of his friends in order to keep Monkey safe. I had to learn about family unity from my own son.

So here's my dilemma: what do I do? How do I tell Jenna that Sarah isn't invited to the kids' birthday party, when she surely assumes she will be? I want to keep Jenna as a friend, but I don't want Sarah there. Volcano specifically said he doesn't want her there in order to keep Monkey safe. How do I tell Jenna without losing her friendship? Or do I, too, have to sacrifice her as a friend?

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