We had four boys overnight this weekend for Coen's birthday. This brought me a lot of anxiety. First of all, Coen chose four boys for this endeavor. I kept suggesting other boys to invite because, I worried, their feelings would be hurt were they not invited. Coen wanted only four. He's an introvert, like his Daddy, and he knows the number that will work for him.
"But it's an uneven number!" I said to Tad, still rallying for an extra kid. "Uneven numbers are trouble."
"Maybe for girls." Tad said, "But for boys, you're fine as long as you have three or more. Three is the magic number."
"Man." I said. "Three girls at a sleepover spells DISASTER!"
But Saturday came and Coen's four friends arrived. I could barely contain my buzzing nerves. I was endlessly thankful that Tad is my partner. Tad, who is a teacher and handles 28 kids (more than half of them boys) every day. Tad who is really really good at talking to kids reasonably, taking into account that they are human beings, but still getting them to do what he wants them to do. Tad who is entirely even tempered and can laugh thirty seconds after reprimanding someone for saying "Shut up." to someone else...by suggesting, that a person could--if shutting up were their aim--just ask the other person nicely to stop talking...
The other thing that stressed me out was that our neighbors were over when the party started and I was just so incredibly freaked out about hurting the feelings of the kid who was not invited to sleep over, though he joined us for dinner and left after. I wanted to go knock on the door of his house and talk with his parents for thirty minutes about how much we like him and how much I am worried that his feelings were hurt... Tad suggested that might be unnecessary.
Tad and I stood in the kitchen talking while the boys ran up and down the stairs, laughed with each other, talking and playing...
"I'm like...terrified of them." I admitted. "What's wrong with me? I feel so incapable!"
"You're not incapable." Tad laughed. "It's a bunch of boys. It's just boys. Anyway. I'm just doing my part. I mean, you almost fainted when I mailed a letter the other day. You do plenty around here. I can handle this."
I thought about that. That was true. I spent the day prior cleaning out the basement, taking stuff to goodwill, trimming all the weeds and errant saplings around our yard. I manage our household. And for heaven's sake, I teach teenagers about sex for my job.
Is it really that I'm afraid of these kids? No, I know each one of these boys, have known most of them since they were three years old. They are sweet kids. They are goofy kids. They're not much different from my kid.
So what am I afraid of? What is it that gives me such anxiety, that keeps me from volunteering to take a group of kids in my son's class on an outing? That makes me so glad Tad's there to help during a sleepover?
I think...it all comes down to this. I don't want anyone to have hurt feelings. That's why I wish we could have invited everyone in the world overnight so no one was left out. That's why I felt nervous at the group of them. I mean...what if someone is mean to someone else? What if someone gets bullied? What if I have to tell someone to stop being mean to someone else and that makes them feel bad? Oh my gosh, it's ridiculous!
I mean, in my very smart brain I know that sometimes people just have to feel bad. It's a part of life. To learn how to get through feeling bad and then feel good again. But I just don't like having to tell someone to stop something or that they can't have something or just saying no to anything at all. I know. It's completely silly.
I've been working on my practice for YEARS of being really nice to people--without being a doormat. I totally can do it. Anyway...that's just the truth about me. I get nervous about having to do anything that might make someone feel bad in any way.. That's just me! Don't look at me like that!
Oh, I'm sorry! Did I hurt your feelings? Oh my gosh, I didn't mean to. Here. Have a box of cookies.