Recently my Miss5.5 excitedly came home with her invitation to a classmate’s birthday party. Local girls know this venue, it’s dedicated to them in particular. We’d been before for a craft party and loved it. The shop is pretty, colourful, inviting and fun looking and we looked forward to going again.
The girls were rounded up and directed upstairs for musical games. The sound system blasted the room. Lights were dimmed and flashing coloured lights revolved around the walls, reflecting off a disco ball. My girl braced herself against the doorway and refused to go inside.
While neurotypical, with a big brother on the spectrum my girl hasn’t gotten off completely. We’ve seen anxiety in new social settings but also particularly sensitive hearing. At odds with her big personality and joyful anticipation- whenever at new/ crowded/ or noisy places she can cling desperately to me, or hide under tables, sometimes with her hands over her ears. Sound familiar?
I had planned to drop her off but under the circumstances of course I couldn’t. She never settled, refused to (literally) let me go. Looking on forlornly from the doorway as everyone else had their face painted, I tried to encourage her. Nothing worked. No other children seemed perturbed, though they did notice their friend acting in a way they’d never seen at school. A couple of sweet friends tried unsuccessfully to include her. Another couple looked perplexed and asked what she was doing- making it more excruciating for her in front of her peers.
I took her for a walk down the street. I tried to comfort her and told her to look forward to the craft part. On our return, we found we were locked out. Organisers were setting up the party table at the back of the shop. When they did let us in again I asked about the craft? No craft today. Just dance party. Oh. Great!
They’d clearly seen our struggles and ignored them. Oh. Given we’d already missed half an hour of the celebration I now requested they please turn the volume down.
“We can turn it down a bit, but this is a party“ I was told.
If a voice could have an eye-roll in its tone, this did. The volume was reduced from ear-blasting to merely unreasonably unbearable. My girl tried joining in for a round of limbo and statues but gave up the battle soon enough.
Am I crazy- I always thought the idea of birthday parties was for children to be involved and have a good time? Not today, Sunshine! Our visit had been stressful from the start and by blessed cake time was nearly over. I didn’t feel I had the right to take a stronger position with management because it was a new school friend’s day. Her mother was kind enough to later acknowledge our discomfort on their thank you note.
I would love someone to please explain to me why a business set up specifically to entice children to have a special fun time, does not actually care if a child is plainly struggling? Why would they not be concerned that a guest had been (literally and figuratively,) locked out of the party?
What would you do? I’d love your thoughts on this one.