This was a difficult story to write about, but in the hopes that it might spare other families some trauma, here we go:
A couple of months ago, right before school started, my 4yr old twin girls were invited to a birthday party for one of their classmates from nursery school who had just turned 4 himself.
Like many of the twins’ nursery school classmate parties, the event was held at a local kiddie gym. So, presents in hand off we went.
The first clue that things weren’t good should have been that the gym was located in an out-of-the-way deserted industrial area. Still, I figured that they set up shop there because of low rent and we went in.
Upon setting eyes on the interior was when I should have packed up the girls and left but I didn’t want them to miss out on playing with their friends, many of whom they would not see for awhile, as they would not be returning to the temple school for pre-k.
Half the room was unfinished and there were no barriers to the half of the room in disrepair. (Clue 2 that the host mama hadn’t exercised her best judgement in arranging the party.)
But I figured that the staff and the other parents present would be enough to ensure the kids didn’t wander over there.
I was pretty surprised, though, that for a birthday party for a 4yr old there were only FOUR 4-yr old kids – and two of those were mine! All the rest, about 10 other kids, were aged around 6-10. (Clue 3)
But my kids had spotted their favorite friend, one of the other 4yr olds (the final one was the birthday boy), and were so overjoyed to see her that I was reluctant to drag my kids out, as they squealed and hugged their little friend with delight.
Then the kids started the obstacle course. It quickly became apparent that there was not enough competant staff available, as only one risky station involving heights was attended half-heartedly by a female who barely provided any spotting for the kids as they swung from gymnists rings 5 feet off the ground. (Clue 4 that this was not a good place to be).
The other station, a ramp going up to a 4ft height then leading to a drop onto a trampoline, then another 4ft high ramp on the other side. Not. Attended. At. All. (Clue 5)
I was kept busy running back and forth between the two areas to provide spotting support for my girls, while a male staff member sort of wandered the reception area with a vague, spaced-out look on his face. (Clue 6)
None of the other parents seemed to care and just wandered the reception area, chatting to each other.
Then the 8 yr old brother of the birthday boy came barreling thru announcing “I’m the brother of the birthday boy, so I get to go ahead!” (Clue 7 – and an indication that that family had radically different ideas of what it meant to raise children.)
As the BBB (Birthday Boy’s Brother) came barreling over to where my little girl was just landing on the trampoline, I begged him “Please wait until the little girl gets out of the way!”, but he didn’t and started to leap upon the trampoline, just as Halle had made it to the ramp on the opposite side.
Instead of jumping up and down on the trampoline, the BBB just bounced once and leaped feet-first for the opposite ramp where Halle had just landed herself, as I cried out for him to let me get her out of the way first.
Then the BBB SLAMMED feet-first into Halle’s little back, her head snapped back from the impact, her little back bowed, and she was kicked off the ramp to face-plant from a height of 4 feet, into the hard mat below.
No one came over to us as I picked up Halle and checked her over.
After I had calmed her down from her hysterical terrified crying, she tried to walk, but was unable to because of the pain in her back.
I went over to the host mama and told her that her older child had just slammed feet-first into my child and I needed to take her to the Emergency Room to be checked out.
She just smiled vaguely and said “Oh that’s too bad you’ll miss the party.” (Clue 8 that the host mama was missing something crucial – like a soul, perhaps?)
Another mama came over and said that I was overreacting and that I should just let the girls finish out the party. I asked her if she was a doctor and she said yes, she was a gynecologist.
I then took both my sobbing girls out of that place, got a picture of Halle’s reddened back where the footprints were and off we went to the ER. The girls were inconsolable that they had missed the chance to play with their friend and were missing the party, but I lied and told them that the party had been canceled and that everyone had to leave because the BBB had been so naughty by kicking little girls.
After she got checked out by two doctors and a nurse, they said she seemed fine but to keep an eye on her.
I then called the host mama’s home phone and let her know that if there were further complications from the injury my daughter received, that I would let her know so that she could help out with any financial considerations.
You know, that mama NEVER called back to ask how Halle was doing, and when we ran into her at school a couple of weeks later (thankfully neither of my girls shares a class with that woman’s son!!) She completely ignored me. I said “Hi” to her and she just stared at a wall, pretending I wasn’t there.
(Why the heck did that mama even invite my girls when it’s pretty clear she didn’t give a rat’s patootie about them, their safety or their well-being? Did she just want more presents for her kid?)
I made sure to tell my girls to stay away from that woman’s little boy, because if it is acceptable in his family for bigger boys to kick tiny girls in the back, the younger boy is a risk to public safety as well.
Halle’s just fine now, but I’ve learned my lesson about birthday parties:
1) Double check with the facility that they will have adequate and competant staff for spotting.
2) Check the age range of the guests – it is NOT APPROPRIATE for a 4yr old’s party to have 75% of the guests be so much bigger and older than the birthday child.
3) If the facility looks unsafe in any way – drop off the presents and LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. Your kids will get over being disappointed, but they might not get over a physical injury so quickly, or at all. Listen to your ‘Mama’ instincts – if something seems to be wrong with the situation – listen to that feeling!
4) I’m thinking that for the girls’ age, it may be safer for them to only attend parties given for other little girls. The boys at this age (and their older brothers) are way too rough, and you can’t depend on other parents to curb their children’s wantonly destructive behavior if it occurs.
Do you have any helpful advice to keep a child safe when they are a guest at a birthday party? Please leave a comment and let me know 🙂 Thanks!