I brought Maddie to a birthday party at the house of one of her friends from daycare. Maddie had been counting down the days until the party, and she was so excited the big day had finally arrived. She wore an adorable party dress and her hair in braids. She proudly carried her friend’s gift, lovingly wrapped in Frozen-themed wrapping paper. As we stepped in the door, all her little friends hugged her tightly and squealed, “Yay, Maddie’s here!”
The birthday girl’s mom said to me, “You’re welcome to stay if you’d like, or you can go get a few things done. We’re going to play some games and have some cupcakes.”
“Thank you, I’ll just stay a few minutes and make sure Maddie is okay,” I replied.
None of the other moms stayed. The host mom was busy orchestrating the party, so I hung out awkwardly in the kitchen with Katie for a few minutes. Then I went over to say good-bye to Maddie. “I’ll be back in a bit to pick you up. Have fun!,” I told her.
And that’s when Maddie started crying and asking me to stay.
I probably should have stayed. I probably should have not cared what all the other moms did. I probably should have hung out awkwardly in the kitchen. I probably should have let my presence be a reassurance to my five-year-old daughter. I probably should not be so trusting of this family whom I had only just met.
But I didn’t. I assured Maddie she would be fine, and I left. I kissed her on the head, silently willing her to be brave, and I left. I carried three-year-old Katie to the car as she cried and cried that she missed her sister, and I left. I put my sunglasses on so Katie wouldn’t see me crying too, and I left. I worried the whole time she was at the party. The party where she asked me to please stay, but I didn’t. Was she having fun? Was she still crying? Was she scared? Was she worried? Was she playing or sitting off somewhere by herself? Was she wondering when I was coming back?
I returned 90 minutes later. Maddie was having a great time. She didn’t want to leave. She was having so much fun with her little friends. Still, I just can’t shake the feeling that I should have stayed.
I wish I would have stayed.