Today was a big step in my little girl's life: I dropped her off and left her at a birthday party. The birthday party of a boy in her class, whose parents she doesn't know.
Now she has gone on the odd play date without me, but only to good friends' houses where she knows the moms, dads, and siblings very well. Prior to today, she had only been to one school friend's birthday party, and that was her preschool friend last year. I stayed with her at the party and she was also very familiar with the little girl's mom, yet she was still terrified and refused to participate in any of the activities.
So when she received this invitation I didn't know how it would go down. I explained that now that she is in school, the mommies and daddies don't go to the parties anymore. I told her I suspected she was the only girl in her class that got invited (her class has 12 boys and 5 girls and although two of her best friends are girls, she is definitely one of the boys). I made sure she understood it all, and when I told her she didn't have to go if she didn't want to, she she assured me she did. I was shocked.
I hesitated RSVPing before I asked her a few more times. Yes, she was still sure she wanted to go. So I emailed the little boy's mom, telling her that although Rio said she wanted to come, I was worried she would back out. The day I went shopping for the present I checked again: yes, we were still on. Finally this morning, I confirmed one last time. Yup, still excited. Raring to go in fact.
We pulled up to the house and she didn't hesitate. We walked in the front door and were greeted by mom, dad and older brother, happy to see her. She had a look around, faked a smile, and then she panicked.
Ok panicked is an overstatement, but that's when it hit her. She realized her coat was off (and mine was not) and she was in an unfamiliar home, surrounded by a family she did not know. There were little boys everywhere, with no other girls in sight (I was right that she was the only girl to make the cut). She hid behind my legs, terrified.
But then slowly she started to come around. The mom was quick to understand that the way to Rio's heart is through arts and crafts, so immediately set her up at the craft table and the boys soon followed. With a blink of an eye she settled in and was in her happy place with a paint brush in hand. She waved and smiled and I knew that it was ok to leave.
Two hours later when I returned, she was in the middle of a dog pile of boys. Both parents assured me she had been 'amazing'. I had to call her name several times before she even realized I was there. Yes, she was thrilled to see me, but also equally sorry to leave her friends. With a polite thank you she took her goody bag and we were on our way home with her rattling off details of cheese pizza, a Super Mario ice cream cake, and a scavenger hunt.
All in all the party was a success and marked a huge milestone for both of us - letting each other go. I am so incredibly proud of our shy girl who is undoubtedly coming out of her shell.
Today a birthday party, tomorrow a boyfriend, the next day university. My heart isn't ready for this whole growing up deal.