Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Having a Bad Time at a Birthday Party

I wrote earlier about some great moments from over the weekend. But, it wasn’t all good.

One of Kai’s classmates was turning eight years old and had a birthday party.

Kai looks forward to these parties. Though it has been our experience that he can either have an absolutely wonderful time, or he has an awful time.

This was one of the awful ones.

This party was held at the boy’s house. We arrived there at the same time as Kai’s best friend from school. We entered together and went down to the basement where several boys were already gathered.

By this age, most parents drop their kids off and leave. And even though Kai goes to a therapeutic school, only one other parent at this party stayed with their child. The others apparently felt that their kids would be okay on their own. But we have never felt comfortable leaving Kai at parties as there is always a chance that he would get upset.

Like this time.

When we went downstairs, all the kids were milling about, playing with various toys. Kai found a toy crossbow that caught his attention. He seemed fine.

But then the party started.

A young man asked the kids to pair up. He was leading them in some type of game. It seemed similar to Simon Says.

Kai refused, even when his best friend asked him to be his partner.

I first tried to encourage him to participate, but he was really upset so I thought it was best to just get him to sit down with me and relax. But, he wouldn’t.

He walked up to the young man who was leading the group of kids and shouted, “This is a stupid party.”

I was mortified, of course.

I pulled Kai away and tried again to get him to sit and calm down. But, he kept trying to go back to the group, not to participate, but to express his displeasure with the party. He continued to shout.

“I hate this party! This is a bad party!”

I wanted to leave. But, I wondered if I would be setting a bad precedent by calling it quits.

I saw that one other boy was not participating with the group. He was playing with Legos by himself. I told Kai that he didn’t have to do the group activity. He could play with Legos, too.

But, he did not want to do that either.

He had more outbursts. I told him that he could just say, “I don’t want to do this” instead of saying the mean words. And I let him know that if he continued to say the inappropriate words he would lose his computer and video time for the next three days.

I was hoping that the group would go on to a different activity. The invitation had said there would be a magic show.

But, as Kai continued to be upset, I realized that he wasn’t going to calm down. And so, rather than have him ruin the party for everyone else, we left.

I apologized to the birthday boy’s mother, who seemed understanding.

Looking back and trying to figure out why Kai was so upset, I think it was a combination of a couple of things.

The environment may have been too much for him. There were a lot of kids running around and being noisy in the relatively small space.

The other thing was that Kai has never done well at birthday parties where there are organized activities that require a lot of listening to a person who is giving directions. We had a similar situation a few years ago at a sports-themed party.

He does much better when he can run around at will, like at the places with the giant inflatable slides. And he did well at his own birthday party earlier this year when all he needed to do was look at animals.

But following along with the rest of the kids in an organized activity? Not so well.

He and I drove home. I explained to him that it was okay that he did not enjoy the activities, but it was not okay to say that it was a “stupid party.” I tried to get him to understand that it was nice of his classmate to invite him, and he shouldn’t get angry because he did not have a good time.

I don’t know if he understood what I told him. But, eventually he finally calmed down.

Later in the afternoon we went to a gymnastics class. He went on all the different apparatuses and expended all of his energy to his heart’s delight. His instructors there said he had a lot of fun and did a great job.

He’s got another birthday party coming up next month. I’ll be anxious thinking about it.


  1. Ah...parenting. The process of lessons given and lessons learned...and of the time period it takes to go from one to the other. Challenging? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.

  2. Yes, we've learned that even when all seems to being well, things can change in a moment. Very challenging at times, but, like you say, all worth it in the end, though, not necessarily in the moment. :)


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