I don’t mind helping at a birthday party, or even helping to throw one, although I’m a little put out by The Stepmother’s request that I help organize something a couple of days before Christmas, accompanied by a request to front money for the party. Promises of repayment notwithstanding, I don’t have tons of extra cash. If she knew me better, she would know that.
But she doesn’t know me better. We chatted once, when she was married to The Birthday Girl’s father, and she picked the girl up from a sleepover. It was not a long chat, though she seemed pleasant enough.
Sometime after that, The Birthday Girl slept over again. She made me somewhat uneasy: She seemed mature for her age, and I had heard stories from other mothers – and The Child – about her behavior at school. Making a boyfriend of someone else’s crush was one incident that stuck with me. Not nice, and not typical for fifth grade, it seemed to me.
A couple of days after that sleepover, I discovered The Child’s iPad was cracked – and not a little, with webbing all over the front. She didn’t want to tell me, but it had happened when The Birthday Girl was there. Birthday Girl was playing with it.
The Child had saved the money to buy this iPad, and kept it in perfect condition in two years of constant use, so I did not have any trouble believing her version of events. Still, I was diplomatic when I called The Birthday Girl’s father. I hate to make this call, I said, but there was some expensive damage when your daughter was here.
He was frosty, and unpleasant, and said he would get back to me, which he did, but he is challenging: It wasn’t like that, according to his girl. He grudgingly offered to pay for half of the repairs, and though I did not expect the conversation to go well – how could it? – there was no half-apology (“I’m sorry this happened”), nor any indication of half-hearted consequences (“I’ve had a talk with her, and impressed on her the need to be respectful of others’ property”). In short, he will pay me, but he is the wronged party, not The Child and certainly not me.
I paid for the repairs myself, and was relieved The Child was no longer at the same school as this girl. The two would drift apart: The family didn’t live anywhere near us, and we most decidedly had no other ties.