A Party Ain’t A Party

This stage of parenting is seriously turning out to be the biggest mystery for me. Seriously, so much of what Hope is going through, I went through far away from my parents’ view. I was away at college. Now, I’m guessing, that many more folks experience this early adult parenting than I anticipated with more than 50% of college students living at home.

So, apparently, this is kinda the norm?

Ha, it doesn’t feel normal. Even though I’m a first-generation college student, both of my parents moved out shortly after their high school graduations. My dad went into the military and my mom moved to the city. Like everyone, they made their way and figured it out. Again, they were away from their parents’ view as well.

Me, I’ve got a front-row seat to Hope’s shenanigans. And I find that parenting through them is a big discombobulating because these were not conversations that I or my siblings had with our parents, and they didn’t have them with their parents. I’m like, WTF am I supposed to do or say?

Hope had a party earlier this week.

Yep, in the middle of a pandemic surge, she invited about 15 folks over to a party in the condo party room. It was supposed to occur about a week or two ago, but it got snowed out so she rescheduled to this week. I was not a fan of a gathering, but she contracted to use the party room all on her own—which I was really happy about ‘cause those folks were not coming to my house.

She was very excited, and I was excited for her. Social relationships have always been anxiety-inducing for Hope. She finds it hard to make new friends and sustain healthy friendships. Her current job seems to have a nice collection of young people close in age, both younger and older. I’ve met a number of them and many seemed a lot like her in the anxiety-awkward department so she found her tribe.

Well, long story short, only about 5 people showed up for the party. The day after it was clear that she didn’t consider the party a success, that she was really upset that folks who RSVP’d didn’t show, that she felt like she wasted money, and on and on. I asked her if she enjoyed the company of her guests to which she replied yes! Did they bring food? Yep. Did you have leftovers? Already handled. Did they help clean up? Yep, they even helped me pop the balloons! Wait, you had a party with balloons too? Um, ok.

By my estimate, you found your core, solid pals, but Hope and I do different math. She didn’t go to work the next day. She said she was embarrassed, and my heart broke a little.

After I really tried to listen to her and watched her openly wrestle with her emotions, I got to parenting. Hey, don’t give the people who didn’t show up so much attention when these other five folks came out to hang with you. It was 12 degrees that night; you know how I get when it’s that cold—other people get like that too. We just want to curl up in the covers; we will totally be no-shows. It’s not personal; we still love you, and we are still going to bail on that invitation. It’s a whole arse pandemic out here; it’s not a bad thing that fewer people showed up. Risk reduction! I’m sure that if these folks are your friends and they care about you, they’ll apologize for missing your party.

Welcome to the rest of your life and invitations to stuff that you accept only on the day of to explore every possible legitimate, and some illegitimate, excuse not to go to the event.

Afterward, I pondered when and how I learned that. I thought back to parties I had in my twenties, and I just don’t remember. Sure, I have a little pit feeling wondering if people will show, but somewhere I learned that sometimes they just aren’t going to make it and it’s not the end of the world. Somehow I learned that it didn’t mean they didn’t like me or worse. It just wasn’t the big deal I made it out to be.

I don’t know if I helped Hope through her feelings just like I have no idea how I got to the realization that it wasn’t a big deal, in the grand scheme of things. I find I keep bumping into coaching Hope through these kinds of things and I have to really think about how I learned something and when. I mean, this stuff was 30 years ago; it’s hard to remember. Or I remembered how I originally learned it and then learned something new later but not being able to figure out how to explain it. Then explaining more nuanced things…it’s just harder than I anticipated.

I don’t think I’m messing up, but I wonder how other kids who live at home learn this stuff. Are y’all having these kinds of conversations? Is learning through coaching better, worse or no different than learning through lived experience? Does any of this even matter?

I just didn’t expect to coach through some of these experiences, and it feels even more strange than usual.

About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted a tween daughter 7 years ago, and this blog chronicles my journey. Feel free to contact me at adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com, 2013-2021. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

4 responses to “A Party Ain’t A Party

  • rose

    Wonderful that she is secure enough to talk to you about all these things and occurrences. I am certain that helps in understanding and normalizing that such things happen. You are doing great.

  • Mel

    Not something I ever talked to anyone about. Never learned anything apparently because at age 70 I never have parties because I’m afraid no one will show up. 🙂

    I think it’s great that Hope has you to talk with. Much more talking and coaching these days than there used to be. Probably a good thing.

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      I think a lot of us have this anxiety and don’t talk about it. Sadly it prevents us from entertaining and engaging in fun ways. Our collective fear of what feels like rejection can keep us isolated. Hope already can be so isolated, I want her to know the anxiety is normal, but the no shows aren’t always a rejection, usually they aren’t. It definitely has given me a lot to think about that’s for sure.

  • SH

    I never learned. I don’t do parties. My 21st…was shit…because I lived at home with shit parents and only had 2 friends who were actually bullies.

    I’m thinking if I could have a do-over with a genuinely solid parent as I’m the anxious, awkward type, a mix of coaching and learning through lived experience.

    Thinking on how I used to handle logistics in my lgbtq group…

    She invited 15 people and you don’t want to burst her bubble but since anxiety ramps up adolescent insecurities, I’d probably find a way to convey even if someone doesn’t turn up, it doesn’t mean they don’t like her as a friend.

    Some friends just don’t like parties and they’ll probably not RSVP.

    I’d usually want folks to RSVP by a certain time because I’d have to plan location, and then table size and seating per pandemic regulations.

    Then there’s friends who are busy or bail out despite RSVPing… they can be reminded to “unRSVP” themselves so the logistics person isn’t stuck waiting.

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