If you know me at all, then you know that I love planning my children's birthday parties. For me, it's a labor of love and my way of creating memories that they will always cherish. I put lots of thought into choosing each theme and lots of time into creating the perfect cake for each child. But, I have to admit that I was taken aback recently when my 5 year-old daughter told me that she wanted to have a Spiderman birthday party.
I know that she adores her older brother and loves anything that he loves. They enjoy playing Marvel Superheroes together on Saturday mornings, but I never imagined that she would identify with the characters like she did. One day recently, she walked up to me wearing a Spiderman mask from her McDonald's Happy Meal and said, "Mom, there's something I haven't told you. I'm not really human. I'm a superhero." I asked, "Really?! Do you have super powers?" She replied, "Yes, but I can't tell you what they are because it's a secret." I honestly thought she was cute until she started slinging her Spiderman birthday party idea at me.
My initial response was to laugh away my disapproval and say, "No, you are not having a Spiderman party. Spiderman is for boys." My next inclination was to try to change her mind by suggesting something else. I even went to the extreme of taking her to a party store to show her all of the other possibilities. "Oooh, how about a Frozen party? Wouldn't you like a Tinker Bell party? How about Tangled?" By the end of our outing, I had successfully talked her into having a gender-neutral zoo animal party complete with animal masks for all of the kiddos. But as we walked out of the store with our masks, I also brought home with me a hollow, nagging feeling that I just couldn't shake.
As I was lying in bed that night, instead of congratulating myself on my success, I was caught in a web of remorse and regret. My triumph somehow didn't feel like a victory. It wasn't what SHE wanted for her birthday. It was what I WANTED her to want. I had stripped my daughter of her fierce independence and coerced her into masquerading as an edited, unheroic version of herself. I was the one with the issue, not my little girl.
Lying there, I imagined my daughter in the future, reflecting back on her childhood and how her mother didn't allow her to be herself. I didn't want to be THAT mother. Her party is supposed to be a celebration of who SHE is, and instead, I was trying to entice her into being just like me.
I got up right then and there, in the wee small hours of the morning, and created the invitation to her Spiderman party. If my daughter wants to be a superhero, then I'm not going to be the one to crush her dream. She is a born leader. She loves to beat the bad guys and right the wrongs of injustice.
She stretches me out of my comfort zone. She makes me brave.
At 2:30 am, I finally finished the invitation and went to bed feeling like Supermom. After all, my daughter IS a superhero, and it runs in the family.