There I was making all the preparations for Arch’s fifth birthday – cake (tick), presents (tick), balloons (tick), card (tick).
“Now darling,” I said. “There’s something you need to learn and it’s very important.
“When somebody gives you a present, you must say: ‘Thank you very much’ whatever you think of it. Even if you don’t like it, even if you’ve already got it, remember the people who gave it to you have been thoughtful and kind – so thank them.”
Learning to say thank you
I had no faith in Arch’s ability to learn this lesson so, at his party, I was in full control-mode whisking presents out of his hand to avert social calamities. “We’re having far too much fun to open them now, aren’t we?”
The crunch came a few days later when friends dropped by with a late present for Arch and we had no reason (pretend or otherwise) not to open it there and then in front of them.
Arch eagerly tore at the wrappings. It was Mr Men pants. I curled my toes – too young for him, not his thing, nothing he could play with…. What was Arch going to say?
“Thank you very much,” he said, confidently looking my friends in the eye.
Afterwards I sat Arch on my knee and told him how proud I was of what he had done.
“Yes,” he said. “I thought I was going to like the present – but I didn’t. It was boring.”
Learning to put on a mask
“It was,” I said, “but you learnt something very important about not hurting people’s feelings. I’m really proud of you darling. Well done.”
But as I said the words, I felt my heart contract.
If what Arch has learnt was so good and useful – why had it made me sad?