When I was a girl and would have friends over to the house for playdates or sleepovers, my mother would give my guest options for the upcoming meal and let them choose which they would prefer to have. If they wanted tuna for lunch, she made tuna. If they wanted spaghetti for dinner, she made spaghetti. I remember when my guest would choose what I didn't want, I would get upset. I didn't like having to eat what they wanted. Why couldn't I make the choice? Finally, one day I spoke up to my mother.
"Why can't we have what I want?"
She replied, "Because they are the guest. It is the polite thing to do. When you are the guest at their home, you get to choose there."
I remember being surprised about that.
"But I don't get to choose at their houses. They don't ask me. My friends choose at their homes too. When do I get a turn?"
My mother was stunned by that. It had never occurred to her.
When I had a guest at the house, we played what they wanted to play. Watched what they wanted to watch. I was taught that they were the guest - I was the host and to be a good host, you let the guest choose. So whenever someone came to my home, we did whatever they wanted to do.
But it was never reciprocated. When I went to friends' houses, my friends made all of the decisions again. I recall speaking up one specific time and saying, "But I am the guest." But their reply was, "So what. It is my house."
I have found myself through the years parenting with the same mind set. When my kids would have people over I would remind them that they had a guest and to put the guest's interests before their own. But just as when I was younger, it was not reciprocated for my children when they would go elsewhere.
Recently, I have found myself in a bit of a quandary with my daughter. Her 12th birthday is just around the corner. She has made a list of those girls she would like to attend her sleepover. When I looked at the list, I knew she had purposefully excluded 3 or 4 girls from the group. I know that those girls have been unkind to her. I know they have been mean. I know that they have caused her much frustration this year. So when I asked her about her exclusions and she replied, "I am not inviting them. They aren't my friends. I don't care." - I wasn't surprised by those words.
I understood precisely what she was saying. It was her birthday. Why should she have to include girls that had been so unkind and possibly endure their drama at her own birthday party. I fought the urge inside of me to say, "Maybe you should include everyone so no one's feelings are hurt." My daughter is not the same people pleasing personality that I am. She sees things very matter of fact. Cut and dry. Black and white. Be my friend and be included. Mistreat me and I am not interested in spending time with you. So last week she verbally invited seven girls and did not invite the other four.
Well, just to throw a kink into the situation another one of the girls in the group arranged her birthday party 2 weeks earlier than my daughters and invited the entire group. Every single one. She excluded no one. Even those that had been unkind to her. Even those that she is not friends with. This girl has chosen to invite everyone.
When I heard this I addressed it with my daughter.
"You know there are going to be ramifications for not including everyone in your party invitation. Especially when Chelsea has invited everyone. You could appear unkind and possibly mean."
"Are you telling me that I have to invite people who are mean to me?"
"No. I'm just saying that you should prepare for there to be a problem when you exclude some girls and Chelsea does not."
"They aren't my friends. They aren't nice."
"I understand that. I really do. I am just trying to explain..."
"No, you are telling me to invite people I do not like and who have not been nice to me to my party. That doesn't seem fair when it is my birthday."
I dropped the conversation. Because I honestly don't know what the right thing to do is. My mother has said that if she could go back and do things differently with me - she may not have given the guest all of the choices again.
Later my daughter told me what she would like to have for dinner at her sleepover.
"Mom, I want to get hot crab soft pretzels for the party."
"Well, I don't know if that is a good idea. What if people don't like crab?"
"You mean I can't even have what I want to eat at my own birthday party?"
"I didn't say that. I am just pointing out that although you love those - others may not."
She rolled her eyes and the conversation came to a stop.
My daughter is different than me. I am a people pleaser. She is not. But I have been known to put others ahead of me in a way that is not good for me. I have been trying to figure out which of us is actually learning from this dilemma.
I am trying to teach my daughter to be patient, tolerant and accepting. To be generous with her feelings and sensitive to others. To continue to extend an olive branch.
But she is teaching me that it is okay to stand up for yourself. That not everyone is going to like me and I am not going to like everyone - and that is okay.
It's a very fine line that we walk. Both of us with vastly different personalities. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out...