Inclusive. I try, sometimes fall short, but I try to always be inclusive. I simply don’t see an upside to excluding people. When I have plans with some friends, and another reaches out asking what I’m up to, I tell them and invite them to join us. So I’ll change the reservation to 5 couples instead of 4. If I can’t, if it really really really isn’t my place (an actual invitation was sent), then I usually invite the friend to join me at the bar afterward, to meet up for dessert, stressing (and truly meaning) how much I want to spend time with them. I never want anyone to feel left out. Because that’s something we can control, to be generous and inclusive. And when all else fails, when I really want my girl dinner to just be me, Alex, Dulce, and Smelly, I’d hijack our night and force them to meet Leigha, Lacey, Wendy, and Shannan. Because too bad. I love them all, and as long as I’m there, I’d make room for any one of them.
So, when it comes to raising my hops into Beers, I can’t stress the spirit of inclusiveness enough. “Don’t bring any if you don’t have enough to share with everyone.” We’ve all heard it. In 4th grade, I can still remember the anticipation of a handmade valentine. I’d get the mandatory Valentine from a teacher, and that’s it. Some girls, the girls whose moms had the “good snacks” at their homes, would leave school with a knapsack brimming with doilies and red construction paper hearts. I’d go home and eat my feelings…even the ones with the coconut liqueur.
I’ve been heartened to read school policies about birthday parties, how if you’re going to invite people in a classroom to a birthday party, handing out invites at school, then you must invite every single student in that classroom. Inclusive. Fist pump, yes. Yes, yes, yes. No one’s feelings should be hurt, not over this. It doesn’t feel good to be overlooked, ignored, or straight up excluded. I realize we can’t control how other people treat us, just how they make us feel, how we allow ourselves to feel. But I still would rather go out of my way to make people feel good, which makes me feel good about me.
But this. This flyer I received today in the kids’ backpacks from the school kind of pinched my face and waited for it to redden. The flyer announced the arrival of Gelt Grams: an opportunity to send your teachers and friends chocolate Chanukah Gelt in a bag with a dreidel, delivered at school. 5 Gelt Grams for $13, or $3 each. On the back of the form, there’s space to scribe To: From: and a Message:… And what’s the message we’re sending here, anyway?
The Gelt Grams feel like a small disc of guilt and a larger sack of insensitive, all in the name of fundraising. How do I explain to my daughter that she may choose to give gelt gifts to only some of her friends in school (I would never do this), or explain why only one friend gave her gelt, and why didn’t Annabelle get her a gift, but got one for their other friend Harper? It’s just bad business.
UPDATE: Look, I realize I just did it now, myself, with my sample friend invite list above. A friend reads it and could think, “Huh, why didn’t I make the rhetorical dinner party blog list?” Now, I know that it was top of mind friends, that there’s an intimate list of friends I didn’t include, friends I think of every single day, and that the distinction, the inclusion in a paragraph doesn’t a sisterhood make. But I can also understand how, even in the slightest way, someone might feel slighted.
I know I can’t protect my children from feeling rejection. I know, too, that they’ll experience it many times over. They’ve already gotten a taste. “Mama, Maya wouldn’t play with me on the playground today.” They get it. BUT, for the school to fan the fire of misfired feelings and friendships seems insensitive to me. It’s not the message a school should be sending to children.