When Everyone Is Invited, Except You
I could see from across the school playground that my usually larger than life 5 year old daughter was having a bad day. She sat alone in the school sandpit, mindlessly flicking sand. She spotted me and waved sadly which confirmed my suspicion. My daughter never just waved. Usually when she spotted me, she would race towards me like she was competing in the Olympics and dive into my arms with glee, her little lips covering my face in kisses. I approached quietly and asked what was wrong.
“Ahhh Mumma,” she replied, “my little heart is just a little sad. Sarah is having a party this weekend and she has invited the whole class except for me.”
Like an angry, charging bull, I saw red. Now there is one thing messing with me but you mess with my kids or break their little hearts and I am ready to take you down to thunder town!
“Ah my love,” I responded quietly, fighting back the raging tiger that wanted to escape and go attack that beastly mother and her rotten child. “Maybe she just forgot to invite you. Do you want to me to chat with her Mum?”
“No,” Becs replied, “it’s okay….” She looked over at me bravely and forced a smile. I smothered her in my arms reassuring her that it didn’t matter as we had much better plans that weekend anyway. Luckily an ice cream can cure anything for a 5 year old and Becs was soon back to her cheerful self. I however was mortified.
Being Excluded Confirms Our Deepest Fear: We Don’t Belong
My kids had been at the new school for only one term but surely we had made our presence known and including her was only the right thing to do?!? Or were we not very memorable people? Were we not liked? Am I not liked? Was my daughter excluded because of me?
Ah, the painful sting of being excluded! I know this heart-wrenching emotion only too well. Raging extroverts battle with FOMO (the fear of missing out)! However, one of my dearest friends is an introvert and she assures me that she celebrates JOMO (the joy of missing out) but I find that hard to believe. Connection and belonging is a fundamental human need and not cracking the nod, especially when you are the only one not invited, just affirms our deepest fear: that we are indeed outside the circle.
The rejection hungover me like a grey cloud all weekend. The problem with not reaching out to the person who caused you the pain is that you play the scenario over and over in your head. It’s like roasting a chicken on a braai: the longer we leave the pain there, the more burnt and charred it becomes.
How To Handle Being Excluded: How Adults Can Learn From Kids
On Monday morning, my daughter galloped into school with her usual fire and energy. Of course, the thing you try and avoid the most is often placed right in front of you to teach you a lesson: the terrible mother who had excluded my precious child was in classroom telling the teacher how exhausted she was as she had invited pretty much the entire community to her daughter’s party.
“Hmmmmm…….” I thought to myself…..”the entire community except for us. I should darn well hope you are exhausted…”
What happened next will remain with me for the rest of my life.
My 5 year old daughter ran up to Sarah (who was still glowing in the showering of love from half the world) and she threw her arms around her.
“Hi Sarah,” she said joyfully! “Do you know, you invited the whole class to your party except for me. It’s probably because you don’t know me too well but I would like to change that. Can you come to our house this Friday for a play date?”
Sarah’s mum turned towards me, with a look of shock on her face.
“Oh my goodness,” she exclaimed. “How on earth did we forget to invite Becs to Sarah’s party? Sarah adores Becs! I am so so sorry. I must have made a terrible mistake.”
“Ahhhhhhh…” I replied gingerly, lying through my teeth, “Please don’t worry. We barely noticed!”
All the pain. All the rejection. All the anguish. All the thoughts of not being good enough, evaporated right there and then. People make mistakes and often it has absolutely nothing to do with you.
Taking Offence From Those Who Never Intended to Offend
I learnt a very valuable lesson that day: how many of us are offended by people who never intend to offend us at all? How many of us have built walls that don’t need to be there? What if we all were as transparent as 5 year olds and had the courage to ask if there was a mix up? So much unnecessary pain and hurt would dissipate straight away and we would be free to love one another as God wants us to do.