Frances has severe separation anxiety, and, consequently, has never attended a birthday party (or a play date) on her own.
Yesterday, a school friend had her birthday party at a local cinema. It would have been the wrong event for a practice solo run, and Frances was unwilling anyway.
Fortunately, the invitation specifically mentioned that I could join her at the party, so an awkward conversation was unnecessary.
As usual, I hoped for the best and prepared for the worst.
Before the party, in the washroom, I explained to Frances that if she should cry at any point, the birthday girl would think that her party was unsuccessful. (She frequently mentions perceived injustices which always leads to perseveration and crying.)
Also, in my bag was an arsenal of coping tools including, but not limited to, the falling-apart stuffed animal that she has taken everywhere for the past three years, noise cancelling headphones, and hand sanitizer.
(I did start to worry a little when, just before the start, Frances asked, “It would be very bad if someone I knew died while I was in the middle of watching the movie, wouldn’t it?” I hadn’t prepared for whatever that question might have portended.)
Well, Frances did a great job: she only left the party table a few times to get hugs and kisses from me and returned to the activities somewhat easily.
Sometimes, throughout, I would whisper, “Say thank you” and the like.
Only the stuffie came out of the bag (at the outset of the film).
The parents were so nice in allowing me to accompany Frances, and they even included me in watching the movie and enjoying the generous refreshments. Yet I still worried about my presence being an imposition.
There was one other mother (of a younger child) who remained while the other children were dropped off, and it was obvious that the child required her assistance.
But it is increasingly unusual that someone of Frances’s age (nine) would have her mother nearby at any social event.
Unfortunately, as Frances ages, her separation anxiety becomes more debilitating (yet she herself remains untroubled by it). I’m hopeful that her behaviour therapy will help in this regard.