Long time readers will remember the kerfufle about Naomi’s birthday party last year. She drew up her invitation list, and missing from it was her friend J, who spends heaps of time at our house. Naomi’s perspective on this one was that J didn’t get along with some of the girls Naomi was inviting. My perspective on this one was that I didn’t care; we weren’t going to have a party that excluded someone who could easily believe she was one of Naomi’s best friends. And so the battle was joined. Finally we came to an odd kind of compromise: an enormous birthday party with enough girls to dilute the energy between the girls who didn’t get along, and a complicated juggling act for the mommy who had pushed this idea in the first place.
This year, once again J was not invited. Once again I argued for it, and N once again made the argument that they weren’t such good friends that it would make sense for her to be there. I pushed it some, and then let it go. It’s true that N spends only some time with J now, not as much as before. And it’s also true that N is getting bigger and there are consequences she can face on her own.
This choice was made rather awkward, however, when J came over to our house on Naomi’s actual birthday to play and to stay for dinner. The girls hung out, walked on the beach, and giggled in Naomi’s bedroom. And then, Naomi snuck out of her room as I was making dinner in the kitchen. She got close to me and whispered, “Mom, can J come to my birthday party?” I smiled. Of course she can.
And so it is that tonight, one of the seven girls sleeping (or, er, not sleeping) upstairs is J. They have watched their movies, eaten their cake, alternately welcomed and then excluded Aidan, who has been alternately delighted and in anguish over the whole thing. And now Michael and Rob and I are hanging out in front of the fire, listening to music we first heard together twenty years ago, and wondering what we’ve really learnt in the years since these songs were new in our lives. For Naomi’s eleventh birthday, I have learnt that sometimes a mom should push for what’s right, and sometimes she should just watch as the right thing emerges.