I should have known that it was a big deal to her when the signs started going up around the house the day before.
There were signs all over the house:
I love 7 year old spelling. I really do.
I will confess, though, that I did tell her to correct one tiny little sign:
I can't help it. Missing "e"'s kill me.
This was her door:
She had set up the room the night before. We were not allowed to touch it:
At 1 p.m., the questions began. "Is it close to 3 yet? How much longer?" I told everyone to remember that, at 3, she had a tea party planned. Everyone had to go, I said. She changed her outfit four times, fussed over where everyone would sit and how she'd handle it all. She planned and planned, and watched the clock.I swapped out shorts and tank tops for jeans while I watched football, had people try on last year's pants and located jackets, happy that she was busy and glad to be able to get some work done. People did homework. My husband hung pictures and futzed around repairing the 7 bajillion items that fall apart every week. Nik played Madden. It was, relatively speaking, peaceful.
And I realized, suddenly, that it was 3:22 and I hadn't seen her in a while. She was upstairs, crying.
We'd all forgotten.
I felt like the worst mother in the entire world. I held her and rocked her and tried to cajole her out of her despair. It didn't work. I was silly and goofy. She cried on, all the while breaking my heart into pieces. A tea party was clearly a big deal to her. What kind of a mom sees how excited her child is to do something - and then forgets??
I talked and talked, and slowly she came around. We had our own tea party, just the two of us. She had green beads on each plate, and I put them on and we partied.
And then I called everyone upstairs and reminded them that there was a party planned.
She sang a special tea party song to us.
After a while, she forgot all about being sad. Because she only had three places set besides hers, she did the tea party in groups. The first group was just the two of us. The second, Mommy and Daddy - who categorically forbid me to take one photo. (Spoil sport!)
The third sitting was me, with Emma and Allegra.
The fourth, everyone - minus Daddy. I drank a LOT of pretend tea yesterday, and I heard nineteen renditions of the Tea Party Song.
The words I told the rest of the family were really to me.
It's not a big deal to you, but it is to her. When you were little, we took time from our day to play with you, and she needs the same attention.
I need to remember that, as busy as I am, soon she won't want to do a tea party. Soon I'll have all the time to myself that I need and I'll wish for a tea party.
I really have no idea what I'm doing at this parenting stuff. Most of the time I can pull out a win at the last minute, but there are times when I'm deeply convinced that I'm failing.