It had been a long day at the end of a very long week. The birthday party was the last item on the agenda. It was on the other side of town. After dropping her off I then had to pick up another child, drop them at home and head back to the supermarket. I'd been earlier that day and forgotten the one crucial element for dinner. Don't you hate that?
When I returned to the party to take her home, they were yet to cut the cake. She was blissfully happy and begging for just five more minutes. I took a seat with a couple of the other mothers and watched the next hour roll by. The groceries remained in the back of the car. It was Thursday night (our Friday) and I was ready for a glass of wine. There is zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol in Qatar. Zero, not even a glass or a sip. I looked down at my water and thought about how lovely that glass of wine was going to be. G sent a text, he was on his way home. We'd stayed an extra hour. It was well and truly time to go.
And then the children disappeared.
To say that my blood was boiling would be an exaggeration, but it was definitely heating up. I'd promised her five more minutes again and again and again, and when she knew her time was up - she disappeared. In the distance you could see bodies at the park at the end of the street. I collected her things, and got in the car. As she looked up through the monkey bars, I saw her see me, and then run and hide.
I could feel a little vein pulsing in the side of my head.
Her friends giggled and innocently said "she's not here" and then I very calmly and slowly (as in scary calm and slow) said "get. out. from. behind. the. bush. we. are. going. home." She looked a little frightened as she made her way towards me. We probably could have moved on from there, if what happened next didn't happen.
She didn't say thank you.
She was searching through her goody bag when the birthday girl's mother arrived at the car window. I was waiting to hear the words "thanks for having me" when out of her mouth came "I can't find the lollies from the piñata".
I stared at her. The mother stare. The one that is so much more than a stare, it's a glare and a stare combined. I was trying to telepathically convey to her that if she didn't say thank you right now, she wouldn't be attending another birthday party until she was old enough to drive herself there.
We said goodbye and left. I drove away from the party, turned a corner and then found a safe place to park. And then I lost it. Really, really, lost it. I was horrified and I told her. I talked about looking people in the eye, about respect, about how much work a party involves and how lucky she was to be invited. My hands were shaking.
"I can't. I get embarrassed. I don't like it". Her eyes were filled with tears.
I was exactly the same as a child.
Brimming with confidence with other children, it never made any sense as to why I struggled so much with adults. I never got the thank you thing right. I was never great at answering the questions or speaking on the phone. I remember the awkwardness of "say hello to Mrs Smith, Kirsty" and feeling my shoulders slouch and suddenly becoming very interested in what was on the ground.
And this is how it came to be that we sat in the car on a Thursday afternoon and practiced our thank you. Until it became hysterically funny. Nose to nose thank you, cross-eyed thank you, we said thank you in five different accents. And at the end, she said "I'm sorry I ran away Mum". As I hugged her I said "next time you hide? I will get back in the car and mow you all down."
When my friend Gina dropped Annie to the house this Thursday there was much excitement. They'd had their hands painted with henna, there was giggling and hugs for the beagle. And then I noticed that she was following Gina, walking inches behind her waiting to get in her face. I could almost see her heart beating through her chest. She stood right in front of Gina, looked her in the eye and in a clear loud voice said "thanks for having me".
I don't know how to say thank you adequately for your comments on my last post. Every comment had something about it that made it unique. Every comment let me know that you were out there. Some of you really made me laugh and others had me in tears. When you tell me that you read my posts to your 87 year old mother, I can't think of a bigger compliment.
A very special girlfriend of mine, who's not only known for her honesty and kind heart, but her unique ability to call a spade a spade - sent me a note:
I saw your blog about not being nominated #fail - not sure how the whole thing works but know one thing - you can write and your recent Anzac one was an awesome tear jerker which I copied the link to a pile of friends. Suck it up princess and get back on the keyboard - I am always waiting and looking forward to your next blog and I reckon I'm not alone x
I'm back on the keyboard and I promise not to wallow again. I will continue to enter competitions and be disappointed when I lose, but I will know that it doesn't matter because someone bothered to print out my writing and take it to their 87 year old mother.
So thank you with our noses together, and thank you with cross-eyes, and thank you with five different accents.