Tonka had his birthday party today, at a gymnastics centre. Having outsourced the actual party, and having devoted much energy to preparing for his sister’s birthday celebration two days ago, and to dealing with Queenie’s predictable-but-still-exhausting emotional difficulties with celebrating her two siblings’ birthdays within two days of each other, I didn’t plan much for Tonka’s party. I procured food, I invited friends and then invited siblings of friends to bring the number of guests up to a respectable size when several of the invitees couldn’t make it, I prepared loot bags at Tonka’s insistence…and then I did nothing more. The party was to be an hour of gymnastics, led by an energetic young person, followed by an hour in the party room, with Mr. Fixit and I on our own to entertain the kids. I planned nothing for that second hour except snack foods. I figured we could play a rousing game of Simon Says if we needed to…but I doubted we would need to.
I was right. The nine kids, ranging in age from five to almost ten years old, talked and ate and entertained themselves. Naturally, with two Fixit kids in attendance the conversation turned to Harry Potter. Tonka blurted out our favourite line: “Not my daughter you bitch!” A shocked silence descended on the room. I rushed over to Tonka to explain that we don’t say that word in PUBLIC, only at HOME. The kids giggled nervously and the party resumed.
Near the end of the allotted party time, I urged Tonka to hand out the loot bags to his guests. There was an extra bag made up for a friend who hadn’t bothered to RSVP (I would be annoyed but we already know I’m guilty of doing the same thing) and Tonka, without hesitating for a minute, handed it over to his friend Sally (not her real name). Her mother protested, “You already gave her a loot bag, Tonka – this must be for someone else.” “No,” he replied calmly, “it’s for Sally’s little sisters.” Sally and her mother thanked him – but he wasn’t done. Tonka pulled out the main feature of his own loot bag – a large tube of bubble solution – and handed it to Sally’s mother. Now the family had three tubes of bubbles for their three daughters. Tonka knew we didn’t have any more of those tubes at home, and he certainly knew that Queenie wasn’t going to share hers with him. He gave away something of his own for a younger child. It was true empathy, and it was completely his own idea.
I can eventually teach him not to swear in public. But it would be far more difficult to teach him to be as kind and empathetic as he was this afternoon. It just comes naturally to him, and I couldn’t be prouder of my potty-mouthed little boy tonight.