Each year at school, we have gone through a ritual called Grandparents Day. I remember when my little girl was in kindergarten, my heart sank when I retrieved the handwritten invitation from her schoolbag. It was assumed that all the kids had grandparents, active in their lives. Last year, there was a huge sign in the doorway to the classroom. This year, an invite was again sent home, and it was made clear that it was for grandparents only. I know many children whose grandparents have passed away, live overseas, are unwell, or are not in their grandchildren’s lives by way of necessary estrangement. Every year my child asks questions and as the day approaches, the pain escalates. They learn songs and dances to perform for the visitors. Each year, we run away with a group of kids and parents who want to shield their sons and daughters from the pain of exclusion. I wish it was termed Family and Friends day, but it’s not, and the thought of my child alone at her desk, watching grandparents fawn over their grandkids is intolerable. This year we went to a beautiful spot, a short ferry ride from Circular Quay.
Munchkin travelled in with her preschool friend, and they argued as to why they weren’t like brother and sister as the mother’s laughed. Both stubborn, feisty, full of energy with a love of daring feats and water. Begrudgingly they were heard to admit that they liked each other’s company. We watched them play at the Bath’s whilst we ate hot chips sprinkled with paprika. More mums and kids joined us, and we were all glad to have an alternative to the festivities at school. Some things you can’t shield your child from, no matter how much you want to. Occasions like this, you can.
We devoured white mulberries, shaken out of my friend’s tree that morning, and finished with gelato. The kids took turns playing games on the ferry on the way home. I have been shut out of a school formal, and celebrations marking milestones. I know the sting of exclusion. I have learnt to look for alternatives when that feeling comes.
These children felt a part of a community, as did the mothers. I love the saying, ‘Go where you are celebrated, not merely tolerated.’ We did just that.